James Cameron
Dan Steinberg  /  AP
Director James Cameron has selected the French game publisher, Ubisoft, to develop the game that will release alongside his sci-fi film, "Avatar."
By
Hollywood Reporter
updated 7/24/2007 3:52:19 PM ET 2007-07-24T19:52:19

“Titanic” director James Cameron’s upcoming sci-fi extravaganza “Avatar” is leaping into the video game space with Ubisoft.

Capping an extensive yearlong runoff among four game companies, Cameron has selected the French game publisher to develop a next-generation video game to be released alongside the 20th Century Fox production in May 2009.

“Avatar,” Cameron’s first feature film since “Titanic” set sail in 1997, tells the story of Jake (Sam Worthington), an ex-Marine who persists in an alien world as an avatar, a human mind in an alien body. The concept is similar to many video games where a player creates a virtual manifestation of themselves, often referred to as an avatar.

The similarities were not lost on Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, who said the game would “let us see the world and ourselves from another angle, acting as a mirror that will help us understand the consequences of our choices.”

For Ubisoft, the deal with Fox and Cameron represents the company’s biggest bet yet on a movie property, even eclipsing the terms of its landmark deal with Peter Jackson and Universal for the game based on “King Kong.”

While other publishers offered even larger license fees, ”Avatar” producer Jon Landau said Ubisoft’s concept was the clear creative choice. “Jim’s not an easy person to nail it with, but Ubisoft presented a concept that held true to the film but also sounded like a game we’d all want to play,” he said. “It is the perfect fit.”

Landau said the game’s narrative will not be a strict retelling of the film but instead play out as a nonlinear story that shapes itself to the player’s action inside the alien world. Ubisoft’s deal does not cover the rights for a massively multiplayer online game, an idea that Cameron has previously spoken about as a way to introduce players to the franchise. Landau said that game is still a possibility.

Given the film’s digital-heavy production and its extensive use of performance capture, 3-D and effects from Peter Jackson’s WETA Digital, the film team expects to break new ground in building a digital production pipeline that feeds into the game.

“It’s one of the foundations from which we built the whole production paradigm,” Landau said. “The game will be right there with us every step of the way.”

While yet to be confirmed, it is expected that all the actors from the film, including Sigourney Weaver, will reprise their roles in the video game version.

Although video game publishers like Electronic Arts have recently made a strategic shift away from licensed movie games because of high royalties and the inherent risk of tying a game’s fortunes to a film’s success, Paris-based Ubisoft, renowned for its high-quality games, has doubled-down its bet.

Guillemot said the company sees as much as 20% of its revenue coming from Hollywood licenses in the years to come, with the expectation that movie games will generate at least 50% of a blockbuster film’s global box office tally. Besides ”Avatar,” Ubisoft is at work on a video game version of Robert Zemeckis’ “Beowulf,” due in November.

Copyright 2012 The Hollywood Reporter

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