In what may be the last surprise in a fall season full of head-turning video game business deals, MTV Games has announced a video game development partnership with "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "CSI" super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
The multi-year partnership will see a Jerry Bruckheimer Games team working with MTV to create original games based on original ideas. This is Bruckheimer's first major foray into video games.
"I think the New Year is upon us, and we all make our New Year's resolutions," the producer told MTV News during a phone interview on Tuesday. "It's time to set our creative energies into other areas I haven't been in before, so it's a perfect time for me.
The deal was hatched earlier this year and is in the early stages, with Bruckheimer still assembling a team. The deal calls for the Bruckheimer/MTV team to find top developers to create whatever games the partnership dreams up.
What kind of stuff might they want to create? Bruckheimer said it's too early to pick genres, but he did name a general style: "I think the same kind of stuff we bring to television and films. We always want to look at things a little differently from other people. Pirate films were dead for a long time, and we put Johnny Depp in it and created an unforgettable character. We did the same thing with fighter pilots in 'Top Gun' and dancers in 'Flashdance.' So we're just trying to see things a little differently."
Bruckheimer doesn't pretend to be a gaming expert. He admitted to playing some "Halo" of late but specified that "I wasn't the first one in line" when it came out. As a perk of the deal, he was sent a copy of "Rock Band," which he intends to crack open during the holidays. He plans to play drums.
But whether Bruckheimer was a gaming expert wasn't the decision-maker for MTV Games. "I didn't care," said Jeff Yapp, executive vice president of programming enterprises for MTV Networks Music Group. "What I wanted was his ability to tell a story that uniquely connects to an audience and now to give him a new set of tools, which is the interactive set of tools that he has not had the opportunity to play with yet. Someone said to me that before he came to television he was largely a film guy, and film guys go to TV, and very few of them succeed. Well, Jerry clearly succeeded there."
Yapp said that the move, which follows MTV's acquisition of music game developer Harmonix and the publishing of "Rock Band," helps establish MTV Games as a major player, ready to contend with gaming heavyweights like Activision and Electronic Arts. And to those who are wondering what to make of the label that used to be known just for helping to make video games based on MTV shows like "Pimp My Ride," Yapp said: "Hopefully what they're thinking is: 'These guys are pushing the envelope in pretty big ways.' Not lots of little projects. We're making some big bets."
As for what the first game of the Bruckheimer/MTV partnership will be and when it will appear, both Bruckheimer and Yapp say it's too early to determine. Bruckheimer emphasized that the fact that the deal is with MTV doesn't necessarily mean the games will be music-oriented, so the content could be anything.
The time frame? Said Yapp: "If you look at traditional gaming, you'd say 18 months to two years, if everything was perfect." But he and Bruckheimer are even talking about tying in other approaches, like mobile, TV and virtual spaces. "I think the point that sticks out for Jerry and I is ... a new form of entertainment that links all of those forms of entertainment together. If that happens, and that idea is there, we can be out much faster."
The season has been full of gaming-business surprises. Just a few days into the autumn came the September announcement that Activision was buying the racing game developer Bizarre Studios. In October, Bungie Studios announced it was going independent from its former owner, Microsoft. Earlier this month, giant gaming publishers Activision and Vivendi Games announced plans to merge into a company called Activision Blizzard. The MTV/Bruckheimer deal has gone public with just days to spare before the season ends. It's been an interesting video game fall, to say the least.
Stay tuned for more news on the game-development partnership, including more from our conversations with Bruckheimer and Yapp, on the Multiplayer blog.