By Barry Janoff
November 6, 2015: Activision Blizzard, which has brought the likes of Call of Duty, Skylanders, Diablo, Hearthstone, Destiny, World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Guitar Hero to video gamers worldwide, is now preparing to bring its library to movies and TV.
The Santa Monca, Calif-based company has formed Activision Blizzard Studios, a film and TV studio "devoted to creating original content based on the company’s extensive library of iconic and globally-recognized intellectual properties."
Nick van Dyk, former senior executive with the Disney Co., has been named as co-president. According to Activision Blizzard, van Dyk's responsibilities will include distribution, physical production, strategy, finance and operations. In addition, he will co-manage all aspects of the studio.
Van Dyk will run the division with a senior creative executive who will soon be announced, according to the video game firm.
Activision Blizzard Studios said its first production would be Skylanders Academy, an animated TV series based on the Skylanders game. The series is currently in production under the supervision of Eric Rogers (Futurama, NYPD Blue).
Skylanders is a $3 billion franchise that has has sold through more than 250 million toys since pioneering the toys-to-life category in 2011, according to Activision Blizzard.
High on the production list is the development of a "robust cinematic universe" based on the Call of Duty franchise, to include feature films "as well as the possibility of television adaptations."
Activision Blizzard said that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is the No. 1-selling title on next-generation consoles. Call of Duty: Black Ops III hit retail today (Nov. 6).
The film version of Blizzard's Warcraft is scheduled to hit theaters June 2016, from Universal and Legendary Pictures (pictured below).
“Activision Blizzard is home to some of the most successful entertainment franchises in history, across any medium," Bobby Kotick, CEO for Activision Blizzard, said in a statement. "With the launch of Activision Blizzard Studios, our engaged fans can now watch the games they love come to life across film and television."
Kotick said that Activision Blizzard Studios is "yet another way we’re celebrating our players and fans, and we expect that our film and television productions will entertain and delight whole new audiences, as well. We intend to approach film and television development with the same unwavering commitment to excellence we are known for in game development.”
On Nov. 2, the company shared plans to acquire King Digital Entertainment, the creators of the Candy Crush, Farm Heroes, Pet Rescue and Bubble Witch franchises, which would boost its position in global mobile gaming from 70 million to a potential 500 million worldwide, according to industry analysts.
Prior to joining Activision Blizzard lin 2014, van Dyk spent nine years at Disney where, as svp-corporate strategy, he "helped drive Disney’s focus on franchise intellectual property and played a significant role in the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm," according to Activision Blizzard.
"We intend to approach film and television development with the same unwavering commitment to excellence we are known for in game development.”
Prior to that, van Dyk was part of Artisan Entertainment’s senior management team.
“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 in a statement.
“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.," said van Dyk.
Regarding its first production, Activision Blizzard said that Skylanders Academy would feature the voices of Justin Long (Live Free or Die Hard, Alvin and the Chipmunks) as Spyro, Ashley Tisdale (Phineas and Ferb, High School Musical) as Stealth Elf, Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) as Eruptor and Norm Macdonald (Saturday Night Live) as Glumshanks.
According to van Dyk, “Activision Blizzard Studios is not just an exciting new business for our company, it is a synergistic complement to our core business. Our movies and shows will benefit from the remarkable IP created in our games and will further increase the awareness of, engagement with and passion for our franchises.”
The founding of Activision Blizzard Studios follows the company’s launch last month of an eSports division headed by former ESPN and NFL Network CEO Steve Bornstein and Major League Gaming co-founder and president Mike Sepso.
Activision Blizzard’s other divisions are Activision Publishing and Blizzard Entertainment.
Activision Brings In ESPN/NFL Exec Vet To Head eSports Division
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