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Disney/Pixar Deal Sees Long-Term Game Ramifications

Disney/Pixar Deal Sees Long-Term Game Ramifications

January 24, 2006 | By Nich Maragos, Simon Carless

January 24, 2006 | By Nich Maragos, Simon Carless
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More: Console/PC, Hollywood

Following today's news that the Walt Disney Company has outright acquired Pixar Studios, the animated CG movie studio responsible for its biggest animation successes of the past few years, in an $7.4 billion all-stock transaction, the deal has raised some interesting questions regarding long-term Pixar video game rights.

Major publisher THQ Inc. has been Pixar's game licensor of choices of the past few years, and in August 2004, entered into an agreement with Pixar to develop games based on the movie studio's first four independently produced films, following the presumed severing of its distribution deal with Disney. An existing arrangement covered games based on Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles, and the new deal would cover the subsequent four films produced by Pixar, starting with Cars.

It's believed that this deal is still valid, despite the change of circumstances, meaning that THQ will control the video game rights to the titles produced by Pixar in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, presuming that the studio releases one title per year. Previously, Buena Vista Games, the video game division of Disney, has acted as a liaison between Pixar and THQ, and will likely to do so in the future.

However, at stake are the rights to incredibly powerful licenses; by September of 2004, THQ announced that its games based on 2003's Finding Nemo had already sold six million copies worldwide on various platforms, and global shipments of titles based on The Incredibles have exceeded five million units, as of November 2005.

Since the Disney-owned publisher/developer Buena Vista Games is now part of the same company as Pixar, and has been expanding its internal development and publishing significantly, including new internal development studios in Salt Lake City and Vancouver, it's possible that, in the far future, Buena Vista might want to take further direct control over Pixar-licensed game titles itself. In fact, Buena Vista already developed and published the Chicken Little Disney CG movie-based game itself.

But, considering that the deal "extends four years after the release of each film and includes all current and future video game console systems, PC/Mac, as well as handheld and wireless devices", it seems that for the forseeable future Pixar's games will be produced by THQ, with Buena Vista as the liaison, in a similar style to Square Enix's forthcoming Kingdom Hearts II.

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