Hollywood already generates a lot of movies and TV shows based on video games. Now one of the biggest companies in the field will become more directly involved: Activision Blizzard just unveiled its own operation — Activision Blizzard Studios — that will develop films and TV shows based on its hit games including Call Of Duty, Skylanders, Diablo, Hearthstone and StarCraft.
“We’re not in the film and television business, we’re in the franchise, intellectual property business,” Co-President Nick van Dyk told an Investor Day conference. The former SVP Corporate Strategy at Disney will co-manage the studio but focus on distribution, physical production, strategy, finance and operations.
His soon-to-be-announced partner will be “an immensely talented industry executive” who’ll focus on creative development, he says.
CEO Bobby Kotick vows to “approach film and television development with the same unwavering commitment to excellence we are known for in game development.”
Activision announced its initial production: the animated TV series Skylanders Academy. Van Dyk says he expects to begin distribution conversations soon. Futurama‘s Eric Rogers is the showrunner. Supplying the voices are Justin Long (Alvin And The Chipmunks), Ashley Tisdale (Phineas And Ferb), Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul) and Norm Macdonald (Saturday Night Live).
The company also says it has a “near-term initiative” to develop “a robust cinematic universe based on the Call of Duty franchise.” This could include feature films with “the possibility of television adaptations.”
Activision hopes to build on the broad appeal of its games by turning them into franchises that also could lead to consumer product sales and sustain the life of its hits.
While Activision will work with established entertainment companies, its gaming sales platform gives it “the option to self distribute if we want,” van Dyk says. “This gives us a terrific position to pursue partnerships.” That also should make the studio “extremely attractive to financial partners,” he said. With a parent company that’s expected to generate $4.7 billion in revenue this year, it also has “ample ability to finance ourselves” with “a fraction of the overhead.”
The studio is one part of Activision’s ambitious effort to become a multiplatform entertainment and digital power as its stock price has soared 84.4% this year.
On Monday Activision startled Wall Street by agreeing to pay $5.9 billion for King Digital, the maker of mobile games led by Candy Crush and Farm Heroes.
The deal would give Activision two of the nation’s highest-grossing mobile games (Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga), the world’s most successful console game franchise (Call Of Duty) and the most successful personal computing franchise (World Of Warcraft), Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter notes.
And in late October it hired former ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein and Major League Gaming co-founder Mike Sepso to run a new e-sports division, focusing on competitive gaming.