Q&A: D3 Talks New Coraline, Shaun The Sheep Deals, Strategy
D3Publisher has acquired the game adaptation rights to the upcoming animated film Coraline and the children's animated television show Shaun the Sheep.
Both Coraline and Shaun the Sheep are stop-motion animated productions from acclaimed creators in the medium. The former, based on a book by Neil Gaiman (Sandman, American Gods), is being helmed by The Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Sellick; the latter comes from Oscar-winning UK production studio Aardman Animation (Wallace & Gromit, Flushed Away).
The Coraline adaptation is expected to ship in the first quarter of 2009, in close proximity to the film's February 6, 2009 opening. It is being developed by Papaya Studio (George of the Jungle and the Search for the Secret) for consoles, and by Japan-based Art Co. for Nintendo DS.
The Shaun the Sheep game is being developed exclusively for Nintendo DS by Art Co., and is slated for release this fall. It marks D3's second collaboration with Aardman, having published a game based on the studio's film Flushed Away in 2006.
Prior to D3's announcement, Gamasutra caught up with D3's Yoji Takenaka about the deal, and how it relates to his company's strategy at large.
Are these platformers, like most children's film adaptations?
YT: Both games are adventure games. With Coraline, the game echoes the story and look of the stylish movie, which we really love. Shaun the Sheep, you know, it's just a short game, so it's a lot of funny and memorable moments from the show.
Are you by any chance doing a 3D version of Coraline like with the flim?
YT: You mean like where you use the glasses?
YT: No, we're not using that technology.
Yeah, I figured. How did you end up with Coraline? How much have you worked with the film's team?
YT: Well, we are always, always looking for these kinds of opportunities. This came up about a year ago, and we considered taking it, because our strategy is to support in a big way the kids' market. That's in line with our strategy. Also, though, with Universal being a major player in the movie business - we tried to be part of it. I'm so excited to start this relationship with Universal.
We actually work very closely with Universal's team. We were invited to their studio to look at how the movie is being made. We got a great feel for the movie, and developed the game.
What about Aardman?
YT: Again, you know, I'm so excited about keeping this relationship, a strong one, with Aardman. The actual relationship began when we picked up Flushed Away's movie rights. Probably as you know, we have a European operation, D3Publisher of Europe, in the UK.
Aardman is a very strong and very respected company and creator in Europe, and it just made sense to license their strong properties like Shaun the Sheep. This is part of our global strategy. We decided to license Shaun the Sheep, because it did very well in the U.S. too, so we decided to bring the game to the U.S. market this fall.
So is that your main strategy at D3 at this point? Because you also published Dark Sector and Earth Defense Force, and have talked about bolstering your core gaming segment.
YT: I haven't changed the strategy in the video game space, that we support the kids' market and the core gamer market with original IPs, 50/50. We are going to introduce more original games to the marketplace, and that means we are going to introduce more kids' games into the market.
So potentially original IPs for the kids' market?
YT: I'm talking about licensed games for that market.
How have those two segments been doing? I suspect the kids' games have been more successful?
YT: Well, right now the kids' market is a big success for us. As you know, we've had Naruto for almost three years now, and Flushed Away was a great hit for us, and Ben 10 is selling well over a million units right now, since last Christmas.
We have big momentum in the kids' market. It doesn't mean we underlook the original IP area. We'd like to establish ourselves in that market as well.
How did Dark Sector and Earth Defense Force perform?
YT: Well, starting with EDF, EDF performed very well. I think we had a good first step into the market with that property. We'd like to continue to support EDF in the future.
Dark Sector, to me, is a good success. As a start-up publisher, we put together the game on next-gen, and we did a strong marketing campaign, and we delivered the game. So I feel very good about it.
While, you know, sales are not as much as we had hoped for, but... You know, we had good success with Puzzle Quest as you know, and the kids' area again, so overall I feel really good about D3Publisher's business in the US.
So is Sandlot working on more EDF?
YT: Um, that's something I cannot comment on right now, but, you know, please keep looking out and stay tuned.