WB Interactive Shopping Around Rights to Matrix Game

According to this article, the game will be continuous. By John Gaudiosi of the Hollywood Reporter:

After closing in February a multiyear licensing deal worth about $10 million with video game publisher Interplay for console video game rights to “The Matrix” films, Warner Bros. Interactive is shopping around PC and online game rights to the films, industry sources said.

Several major game publishers, including Activision and Ubi Soft, are interested in the rights, which would allow them to create a massively multiplayer online (MMO) PC game set within the “Matrix” universe.

Unlike Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter” video game deal, which groups console, PC and online game rights into one package for Electronic Arts, “Matrix” online rights were left out of the Interplay deal because the publisher has no interest in developing an MMO game. With the growing online gaming market, a “Matrix” persistent universe would give any game publisher with an online initiative a huge mass-market property to draw consumers to its Web gaming portal.

Once launched, a “Matrix” MMO game, like Sony Online Entertainment’s best-selling “EverQuest” franchise and Mythic Entertainment’s popular “Dark Age of Camelot” game, would be a continuous, evolving universe that would exist long after the films and DVDs had come and gone. Hundreds of thousands of players could enter the “Matrix” game universe simultaneously, create virtual characters and interact while adventuring through the world. The MMO business model ships a retail PC game for about $50 to launch the world, then requires players to pay about $10 a month. Expansion packs are sold at retail during the following years to expand the universe and generate additional revenue.

“Matrix” directors Larry and Andy Wachowski, avid video gamers, have been working closely with Dave Perry, president of Laguna Beach, Calif.-based video game developer Shiny Entertainment, on the development of Interplay’s console game franchise. The first PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox “Matrix” video games are scheduled to ship day-and-date with “The Matrix Reloaded” in May 2003.

The action-adventure title is expected to blend various game genres into a new interactive experience. The first game will tie in to the plot of the first “Matrix” sequel. The Wachowskis will shoot exclusive footage for the games, as much as 40 minutes. The hands-on approach taken by the directors breaks new ground in the movie-licensed game arena, and Shiny has access to the entire film production, from storyboards and special effects to the actors and directors.

According to a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 30, Microsoft loaned Interplay $5 million for Shiny to continue developing the “Matrix” game. As part of the deal, Interplay will invest at least $500,000 to create an exclusive online feature for the Xbox “Matrix” games.

Additionally, the Xbox games will include many exclusive features, from new characters, vehicles and weapons to cuts from the film’s soundtrack and actual voices of the actors. There was even reference in the report to the possibility of including the first “Matrix” movie on the Xbox game DVD as a bonus.

The Interplay deal allows the company to develop and release “Matrix” games beyond the console titles slated for the second and third films. Because of the proximity of the theatrical releases of the second and third “Matrix” films, the PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox games based on the third film might not release day-and-date with the film but could ship in time for the home video and DVD releases.