As part of a new investment and strategic partnership, UK publishing group and Eidos Interactive owner SCi has gained rights to a number of classic and recent Warner Bros. properties, including Batman, Looney Tunes, many Hanna-Barbera titles and The OC.
The agreement to license and distribute classic Warner Bros. properties comes alongside news that Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. will be making an investment in SCi for 10.3 percent of its shares.
[UPDATE: Speaking with Gamasutra after the announcement, Jason Hall, senior vice president at Warner Bros. Interactive was quick to point out that the new deal does not represent a change in direction for the studio.
"Warner Bros. has more properties in its stable that any one entity can produce," commented Hall. "So, there's a combination of things, and they all involve pairing the right property with the right team. Warner Bros. Interactive in its current state is just three years old, and you don't want to overtax that process. This deal with Eidos is simply a natural extension of our other licensing efforts, such as with EA."
He added: "There are a lot of opportunities within the distribution business at retail, and as we move into this next generation of gaming, narrative based storytelling games are becoming more common, which are in line with with DVD releases. You need a company with an interest in each field to take advantage of the opportunities as they are presented."
Hall also noted that the company still intends to license its external properties to multiple publishers, such as Midway for Happy Feet and EA for Harry Potter, and Warner Bros. Interactive's commitment to internal studios is still in place: "You have our internal production studios, like Monolith, and they have their original IPs. The intention is to have self developed titles when and where it makes sense, and also bring in AAA mega titles and licenses where that makes sense. It's a wide spread."
The WB VP couldn't comment on which of these many properties licensed to SCi might start development first, and what internal or external SCi studios might be working on them.]
The full list of properties available to SCi include the comic book version of DC superhero Batman, and the Looney Tunes character library, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Road Runner and Speedy Gonzales, which Eidos currently plans to use for handheld games.
The deal also includes the Hanna-Barbera catalog, including Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones, Wacky Races, Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound, which Eidos plans to spread across up to 12 new games based on individual characters, and, in a non-animated deal, interactive rights to hit TV show The OC.
Also announced as part of the widening agreement between the two groups was an arrangement with SCi subsidiary Eidos (Tomb Raider franchise) to make Warner Bros. its primary U.S. distributor, providing warehousing, logistics, merchandising and media buying services, leaving Eidos to focus on manufacturing, sales, marketing and PR.
Said Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group president Kevin Tsujihara, "Investing in SCi further solidifies our commitment to the rapidly growing interactive and gaming space. This deal is consistent with our core strategy of delivering high quality entertainment based on some of the world's best-loved brands for all formats and channels. We look forward to working with SCi to build games the fans of these brands will truly enjoy."