Activision teams up with creators of ‘Halo’ in exclusive 10-year deal

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Activision locks up ‘Halo’ creators for 10 years

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Activision Blizzard Inc., currently embroiled in a legal shootout with two of its former game developers, has locked up the makers of “Halo” in an exclusive 10-year deal.

The company said Thursday it will bring to market the next big action game universe from Bungie, the video game studio behind “Halo,” ”Myth,” and “Marathon.”

It marks Bungie’s first such partnership since breaking off from Microsoft in 2007.

Under the deal, Activision will have exclusive worldwide rights to publish and distribute all future Bungie games based on the universe on multiple platforms and devices.

Jason Jones, who co-founded Bungie in 1991 and led the creation of “Halo,” is heading up the development team.

Multiple game releases and the creation of an online community are also part of the deal, executives said.

“We certainly think of the success we’ve built in ‘Halo’ over the last 10 years as a minimum bar for the success we plan multiples of in the future,” Harold Ryan, president of Bungie, said in an interview.

Thomas Tippl, Activision’s chief operating officer, said Bungie laid out a compelling vision of the universe. “When it’s ready and when we’re talking about it, I think you will be blown away,” he said.

Tippl described an ongoing legal battle with Jason West and Vince Zampella, top executives at game studio Infinity Ward, as “unfortunate and unique.”

The two men have said they were fired recently by Activision so the company could avoid paying hefty royalties on last fall’s hugely popular “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.” Activision has said in a countersuit that it fired them for insubordination and trying to poach key employees.

“I think the Infinity Ward situation is unique and unfortunate but it is not going to change our strategy nor our ability to attract the best talent in the industry,” Tippl said.

He also said profit margins on game publishing, above 20 percent in fiscal 2009, would be helped by the new partnership.

Activision is majority owned by France’s Vivendi SA.

Activision shares rose 26 cents, or 2.4 percent, at $11.19 in afternoon trading.

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