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Activision forms its own TV/movie studio; Skylanders series and Call of Duty movie on the way

Call of Duty movie

Activision Blizzard today announced the creation of Activision Blizzard Studios, a group dedicated to adapting the publisher’s properties for TV and film. The new studio will start with an animated TV series based on the Skylanders series, and it will follow that up with a Call of Duty movie – or possibly a series of Call of Duty movies.

If this move sounds familiar, it should. Activision is taking a page from Ubisoft’s playbook, and wisely so.

Hollywood has a weird and stupid history with video game properties, as any gamer can tell you. After decades of trying, the best movie adaptations are mediocre at best. That’s an old and obvious complaint, but a legit one too.

Both Ubisoft and now Activision have apparently had enough of Hollywood’s failures, so they are taking matters into their own hands. Rather than licensing out their properties, both publishers are going to do it themselves.

It may be a brilliant idea or a terrible one, but at least people that actually care about the properties will be in charge.

Activision Blizzard holds the rights to several major properties along with Skylanders and Call of Duty. It missed out on Warcraft, which Legendary is deep into development on, but it still holds the rights to the Diablo series, StarCraft, Hearthstone, and a few others that would be tougher to adapt like Guitar Hero and the recently acquired Candy Crush, which Activision recently acquired (along with its developer King) for $5.9 billion.

To many, Activision Blizzard is best known for the Call of Duty games, so it’s no surprise to hear of a Call of Duty film is in the early stages of development. It seems to be little more than an idea at this point though, so it’s too early to know how the film might fit with the games.

There are a few options – the Black Ops storyline is front and center right now thanks to the release of Black Ops III, but there is also the trilogy of Modern Warfare games, the WWII titles, Ghosts, and Advanced Warfare. The studio could always do something completely original, but that wouldn’t be much of an adaptation. Activision could just as easily license out the name to any action film that wants to thrown the COD brand on it, and take in the cash with much less risk.

The Skylanders series may be the better bet though.

While Call of Duty is being featured on national news today thanks to the new release, Activision’s other billion dollar franchise may be just as important, if not more. Skylanders is a hugely successful property geared for kids, and a TV show (and eventually more), could launch a new empire of entertainment properties.

Unsurprisingly, the studio will start with the Skylanders animated series, which is already deep into development.

The show is titled Skylanders Academy, and it will be overseen by Futurama alum Eric Rogers. Justin Long will voice Spyro, Ashley Tisdale is Stealth Elf, Jonathan Banks voices Eruptor, and Norm Macdonald is Glumshanks. No word on when it may debut or on what network.

The new studio will be helmed by former Disney exec Nick van Dyk. That means Activision Blizzard Studios will have the experience of an established studio head and the backing of a multi-billion dollar company. Not a bad mix. More execs will be announced soon.

“Activision Blizzard Studios has the unique advantage of starting with a library of world-class intellectual property that includes some of the largest franchises which have not yet been developed in film and television,” van Dyk said. “Our library spans more than 30 years of global entertainment culture and, in the last 12 months alone, fans of Activision Blizzard properties have played and watched our games online for more than 13 billion hours. This gives us a huge, passionate and deeply-engaged audience that is hungry for more great content built from the universes they already know and love-and which are extremely broad in their appeal.”

It will also be interesting to see if Activision changes its approach to its future game releases.

Take Halo for example. Halo 5 ties in to multiple live-action projects like Halo Nightfall and Halo Forward Unto Dawn – and Microsoft doesn’t even have its own studio. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think we’ll see a Black Ops live action webseries, or maybe a Skylanders special movie with limited edition copies of the game.

The first real test for this new model of publishers making films and TV shows will be on December 21, 2016 when Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed hits theaters.

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Founder and DBP boss. Ryan likes the Kansas Jayhawks, long walks on the beach, and high fiving unsuspecting people.
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