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Electronic Arts, Marvel in video game deal

Video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc. on Thursday said it has signed a deal with comic book publisher Marvel Enterprises Inc. to develop a series of fighting games pitting newly developed EA characters against Marvel superheroes like Spider-Man.
/ Source: Reuters

Video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc. on Thursday said it has signed a deal with comic book publisher Marvel Enterprises Inc. to develop a series of fighting games pitting newly developed EA characters against Marvel superheroes like Spider-Man.

Redwood City, California-based EA, the world's largest independent game publisher, said Marvel would act as licensing agent for the new characters and would publish comic books based on them.

The games are under development at EA's studio in Canada and the first one is expected to be released toward the end of calendar 2005.

An EA spokeswoman said the deal includes more than 100 of Marvel's superhero characters, such as Spider-Man and the X-Men. However, it does not include the Hulk or Punisher characters.

Marvel already has a licensing arrangement with Activision Inc. for Spider-Man and X-Men, but the EA spokeswoman said the new deal would not affect those licenses, as it covers only fighting games.

Traditionally, EA's strengths have been sports games and games based on major movie licenses. The company has done little with the superhero genre or the fighting genre to date, though it has acquired licenses to make games based on Batman and Superman.

Marvel, riding high on a string of successful movies based on its portfolio of characters, has had mixed results with the games industry.

A Spider-Man game from Activision was a smash hit, but X-Men games from Activision and a Hulk title from Vivendi Universal Games were less successful. The company recently hired an executive to help oversee its game development deals.

Marvel also has a deal with THQ Inc. for the Punisher series.