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EA and Film Roman to create game-based content

With 2007 global sales hitting US$17.9 billion, a full 43% better than its record-breaking performance the previous year, the gaming industry continues to reign supreme as the best-selling entertainment sector going. But despite this obvious sign that consumers dig the content it churns out, Hollywood's gutters are lined with failed attempts to turn successful game franchises into blockbuster mainstream entertainment.
April 1, 2008

With 2007 global sales hitting US$17.9 billion, a full 43% better than its record-breaking performance the previous year, the gaming industry continues to reign supreme as the best-selling entertainment sector going. But despite this obvious sign that consumers dig the content it churns out, Hollywood’s gutters are lined with failed attempts to turn successful game franchises into blockbuster mainstream entertainment.

Remember 1993′s Super Mario Bros.? Of course you don’t. It was a major flop, both commercially and creatively. And the list of duds and underperformers it keeps company with is as long as a multiplayer Halo marathon. But that doesn’t mean the dream is impossible, and Film Roman president and COO Scott Greenberg is one believer who’s setting out to make it happen.

The L.A.-based prodco behind The Simpsons and King of the Hill has just gone public about a new partnership forged with Electronic Arts to create animated series based on the game publisher’s sizeable IP stock. ‘It’s not exclusive, but it’s a working platform,’ says Greenberg. ‘We don’t want to be just a marketing extension for EA games; we see great stories there with great characters, and that’s why we were interested.’

Although the ink is still drying on the deal, it will reportedly include a major TV movie set to debut in October alongside a related game launch. The companies are also working together on two major animated kids series that are currently in development.

One of EA’s franchises in the pipeline for a TV treatment is MySims. An aged-down off-shoot of the popular Sims PC game franchise that has sold almost 100 million copies worldwide, MySims (targeting seven- to 15-year-olds) was released on Nintendo’s Wii and DS platforms in September 2007 and has sold more than three million copies since.

‘The aesthetic of the property is already cartoonish, and that’s why it lends itself so well to episodic television,’ says Tim LeTourneau, executive producer of MySims and EA’s head creative on the franchise. ‘It’s an opportunity to take these characters we worked so hard on and see them come to life in a series.’

The 26 x 22-minute comedy-adventure toon will target kids six to 11, centering around five main characters: Sam, the hero; Goth Boy; vain actor Trevor; science nut Alexa; and Ginny, a girl who thinks she’s a pirate. The gang finds itself in a different world in each episode and must embark on an adventurous quest to go home.

The bible, a portfolio of initial art and a pilot script have been completed, and according to Greenberg, top-shelf broadcasters in North America and Europe have shown considerable interest. ‘We would like MIPTV to be a closing meeting for key broadcasters, and for hitting the rest of the world.’ he says. ‘Ideally, we’d like to commence production this summer, so we can deliver in spring or fall 2009.’

Steve Seabolt, head of global brand development for The Sims, is confident that the cross-platform partnership is representative of the way kids look at brands, and therein lies the key to the deal. ‘I don’t think kids draw the distinction between what is a game, what is a television series, and what is online,’ he says. ‘With the MySims brand, we are now bridging a gap that hasn’t been bridged before.’

About The Author
Gary Rusak is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He has covered the kids entertainment industry for the last decade with a special interest in licensing, retail and consumer products. You can reach him at garyrusak@gmail.com

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