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Midway Partnering With Hollywood

16 Aug, 2003 By: John Gaudiosi

Thanks to the resurgence of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, which has sold more than 2 million units since last November, Midway Games is back in the hunt with a new direction.

David Zucker, who spent 11 years with The Walt Disney Co. before heading to Playboy Enterprises, hopes to build on the success of the million-selling Spy Hunter revival by bringing quality games to market, and by partnering with Hollywood talent.

In addition to being in early talks with Threshold Entertainment on a third “Mortal Kombat” movie, Midway Games has licensed out three additional games for the big screen, the biggest of which is Universal Pictures' $100 million blockbuster that will place Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the driver's seat as superspy Alec Sects in Spy Hunter for a potential movie franchise. The film is expected to start shooting in January for a late 2004 or summer 2005 release. The plan is for the third game to ship in conjunction with the feature film, with “The Rock,” being integrated into the game.

“The game industry is very similar to the movie industry,” Zucker said. “Development costs for games are increasingly in the $5 million to $10 million range, with as much as 50 percent of sales coming during the first three months of launch. At the same time, marketing and development of video games have followed similar patterns as those found in the movie industry, often relying on celebrity talent and mass media exposure to drive sales.”

Zucker has turned to four-time Oscar winner Stan Winston to collaborate on a pair of new horror games. The man responsible for monsters like the Predator, the Alien Queen and the Terminator is breathing life into The Suffering, a 2004 release set in a haunted prison, and Area 51, a revival of the arcade game set in an alien-infested secret military outpost. In addition, Winston has optioned the big-screen rights for both games and plans to turn them into movie franchises.

Another big title for 2004 is ESPionage, a game that will blend traditional weapons with mind powers and that is set in a near-future environment of intense covert operations. NARC, a third-person-perspective drug-busting cop game, is also on tap for 2004.

Zucker has pushed back the release dates for ESPionage, The Suffering and Area 51 in an effort to only ship ‘AAA' titles, even if it means not meeting quarterly demands. Zucker canceled a few games that he didn't believe would sell well in an effort to reinstate the quality that once surrounded Midway Games.

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