December 19, 2007 / 5:24 AM / in 10 years

MTV, Bruckheimer to launch game studio

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Viacom Inc’s MTV and award-winning television and film producer Jerry Bruckheimer will launch a video game development studio, marrying Hollywood and technology in what has been historically an uneasy alliance.

<p>Jerry Bruckheimer poses for pictures in Beverly Hills, California May 16, 2007. Viacom Inc's MTV and award-winning television and film producer Bruckheimer will launch a video game development studio, marrying Hollywood and technology in what has been historically an uneasy alliance. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>

Bruckheimer, producer of Walt Disney Co’s wildly successful “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise among a long list of film and TV hits like “CSI,” said he plans to do for video games what he has done for other well-defined genres of content.

“It’s no different than what we did with movies,” he said in a phone interview. “We did ‘Top Gun’ when everyone said you couldn’t do an aviation movie because they all failed. We did a pirate movie when they said pirate movies aren’t going to work.”

Bruckheimer added, “We approach gaming the same way. We see things a little differently, that maybe other people wouldn’t see.”

MTV Networks earmarked over $500 million earlier this year to invest in video games, including this venture, for its more than 300 Web sites and on game systems of Sony Corp, Microsoft Corp and Nintendo Co Ltd‘s.

Its success with the recently launched “Rock Band” music-based game has inspired MTV to explore other new categories untapped by the $30 billion global video games market.

Rather than shoehorn Bruckheimer into creating games for existing genres, such as shooters or extreme sports, the new studio aims to break new ground in interactive storytelling on the Internet, computers and video game systems, said Van Toffler, president of MTV Networks’ Music and Logo Group.

The teaming up of Hollywood and the games industry has met with mixed success in the past.

Hong Kong action film director John Woo’s “Stranglehold,” a video game sequel to his movie “Hard Boiled,” and the Wachowski brothers “Matrix” series of games have not been breakout hits like the blockbuster films they were based on.

Moreover, the video games industry has also begun to scale back the licensing of movie properties for games as development budgets soar.

“These are for original games for MTV Games and it is our hope that some of this IP (intellectual property) and characters will migrate to TV and film,” MTV Networks President Van Toffler said in an interview.

Left unanswered is how big of a budget the new studio will have at its disposal. Top tier games such as Microsoft’s “Halo 3” and Activision Inc’s “Call of Duty 4” command budgets of anywhere from $20 million to well over $30 million, according to one game industry veteran.

Media executives including those at Time Warner Inc, which has invested in video games, are eyeing the potential rewards. “Halo 3” sales, for example, topped $170 million within 24 hours of its release and $300 million globally in the first week.

Editing by Richard Chang

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