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HIVE EXCLUSIVE: Activision Enlists Two More Marvel Super Heroes

30 Aug, 2001 By: John Gaudiosi

Santa Monica-based video game publisher Activision has acquired the exclusive worldwide rights to develop and publish video games based on Marvel Entertainment’s the Fantastic Four and “The Invincible” Iron Man comic franchises for PC and next generation console systems.

Twentieth Century Fox is developing a feature film based on the Fantastic Four, which is slated for 2003, and New Line Cinema is working on an Iron Man feature for 2004.

“We’ll start developing games based on these characters and keep track of how these movies develop,” said Greg Goldstein, v.p. of brand development and licensing for Activision. “It’s possible that we could do a classic comic version followed by a movie version, as we’re doing with Spider-Man.”

Activision has had great success with its comic-based Spider-Man games, which remained at the top of the NPD TRSTS videogame sales charts from launch. The publisher is also developing games based on the May 3, 2002 feature film from Columbia Pictures and Marvel Entertainment. Developer Treyarch is working closely with director Sam Raimi, Columbia Pictures and Spider-Man Merchandising L.P. to implement the film’s look and feel. Activision will continue its comic-based game franchise separately, with Spider-Man 2 Enter: Electro (PS, Sept. 18), Spider-Man (PC, Sept. 18) and Spider-Man: Mysterio’s Menace (GBA, Sept. 18).

“Hollywood’s in one of those phases now where comics are popular again,” said Goldstein. “This bodes well for our X-Men, Spider-Man, Blade, Iron Man and the Fantastic Four video games.”

“I think the current wave of comic movies and games is not so much a trend as it is a strategy,” said Russ Brown, senior v.p., consumer products, promotions & media sales for Marvel. “All of our movie deals include three films and the rights to an animated or live-action TV series. So we tell retailers that the Spider-Man movie is the beginning of a 10-year block of events, starting with the feature film, then followed by the video games, the home video, the TV series and the theatrical sequel.”

Activision is developing a sequel to its popular X-Men video games, X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 (PS, Sept. 18) and X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse (GBA, Sept. 18). X-Men games are also in development for next-generation systems. Fox’s second X-Men feature is slated for a 2003 release with Bryan Singer to direct the original cast plus some new mutant additions. Activision is expected to tie the games into the movie in some way, as it did with the first game’s hidden movie costumes.

Activision is also developing a PS2 and Xbox game based on Blade 2, which is expected to ship in conjunction with the Wesley Snipes film’s theatrical or home video window. The film is currently slated for March 26, 2002. David Goyer, who wrote the first two films, will produce and develop a screenplay for Blade 3.

Other Marvel Comics heading to the big screen include the Hulk, which Universal Pictures has slated for a May 2003 release. Universal Interactive Studios is developing video games based on the film. Fox will release Daredevil in late summer 2002 or holiday 2002. Mark Steven Johnson is writing and directing the film for New Regency Pictures. A video game publisher is close to signing a licensing deal for both the comic and the film. Artisan is developing Iron Fist for a spring 2003 release and a video game publisher is close to being signed for this property. Kirk Wong is set to direct Ray Park as Daniel Rand aka Iron Fist. Artisan also has the film rights to Marvel’s Captain America, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Power Pack, Longshot, Deadpool and Morbius the Living Vampire.

“The interactive world likes us because we have over 4,700 characters that are basically evergreen,” said brown. “Our characters sell products day in and day out with a built-in audience. Movies and games act as events that lift the sales plateau and generate additional consumer awareness.”

Several DC Comics properties are also heading to video games. Publisher Kemco will release Batman: Dark Tomorrow for GameCube in December, based on the DC Comic. Ubi Soft Entertainment has Batman Vengeance, based on the WB animated TV series, shipping for PS2 in October, GameCube by year’s end and Xbox early next year. Infogrames is developing games based on both the Superman comic and the animated TV series (GBA and PS2 for Q4 2002).

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