Universal Pictures Scales Back Videogame Plans


Stung by the failure of Wanted: Weapons of Fate, Universal Pictures is reportedly scaling back its ambitions to become a player in the videogame publishing business.

Last summer, Universal revealed a plan to begin financing and publishing its own games, saying that not having to negotiate with external publishers would allow for more time to be devoted to actual game production. Universal’s Digital Platforms Group Vice President Bill Kispert said at the time, “We’re now running a hybrid model where we can license titles where that makes sense or kick off development earlier to put ourselves in a better position for success.”

But Wanted: Weapons of Fate, Universal’s first foray into the business, earned very average reviews and failed to catch fire with gamers, and the studio is now apparently reconsidering its plans. According to the Los Angeles Times, three people “familiar with the studio’s videogame operations” say it is no longer actively financing games based on its movies, blaming the change in direction on the poor performance of the Wanted game as well as the overall slump in the videogame market.

Universal hasn’t given up on videogames entirely, but the report says it is taking a much more conservative approach. All of Universal’s movies with game potential are now being licensed to other publishers and industry veteran Pete Wanat, brought in as an executive producer to oversee game development, left the company earlier this year when his contract expired.

One source claimed that Universal is still looking at “some original projects in the early stages of development” as games and perhaps that would be a better direction to take. It may be counterintuitive in the minds of executives but I suspect the studio might have better success if it tries its hand at making games that aren’t based on its movies.

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