ASSASSIN’S CREED Deal Terms May Neutralize the Project

     November 3, 2011

When we reported that Sony Pictures had planned to adapt Assassin’s Creed, we told you that “Ubisoft has set the terms of the deal to be a more active participant in the movie’s development.” Mark that as the understatement of the year, because details have emerged suggesting that Ubisoft now exercises an unheard of amount of control over the project. Says one insider: “As a director, even Steven Spielberg cannot get this kind of deal.”

Sony apparently has granted Ubisoft control over the budget, casting, script and release date, in a deal that sets a dangerous precedent. Though, in the history of video game franchises made into movies, there have been more busts than blockbusters. Perhaps Ubisoft and Sony think this is the answer to the problem. Or perhaps Ubisoft’s Yves Guillemot threatened the studio execs with a hidden blade. Hit the jump for more details.

assassins-creed-altair-image-01For those unfamiliar with the franchise, the games feature a modern day descendant of a line of ancient assassins. Using a high-tech device, he’s able to access his ancestral memories and carry out assassinations in various locales. The gameplay uses a Parkour style of movement, very similar to the other Ubisoft title-turned-movie, Prince of Persia.

Ubisoft is hoping that that’s where the similarities end between the two properties. The box-office failure of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time may be the reason the game company is pushing so hard for more control over the film adaptation of Assassin’s Creed. Their aggressive tactic rubbed some studios the wrong way, as DreamWorks, Universal and Warner Bros. passed on the deal before Sony agreed to terms. Speaking with Vulture, one of the passing studio chiefs put it thusly:

“They [Ubisoft] want to be able to pull the plug on the whole movie’s development if they decide to. It’s ridiculous.”

Ubisoft is obviously playing it close to the vest since they want the feature to succeed and turn into a lucrative movie franchise to complement their wildly successful game line. Perhaps because their games are so gorgeous and cinematic to begin with, they are under the impression that they can simply rent out the studios toys and actors to make a bigger version of their console games. Another studio exec seems to take offense to that line of thought:

“But they’re not moviemakers, and the only way to make sure it’s a bad movie is to undervalue what movie studios do — and this is a deal that totally undervalues what movie studios do.”

ubisoft-logoSony, on the other hand, has a different perspective on the concessions that were made. No official comments have been made, but an insider source explains that the extra control Ubisoft was granted came with an increased sticker price. The game company has kicked in a significant amount of their own coin in order to develop the project. In other words, Sony believes they’ve brokered a bargain by giving up a little more control for spending less money and hopefully reaping the rewards from a franchise with a built-in audience.

So let’s review the terms again: Ubisoft has control over the budget, which makes sense since Sony says they’re footing a significant portion of it. They have final say on the principal cast, which I’m oddly okay with since the characters are their creations after all. Even their sway over the script shouldn’t be a big deal, since they’ll be able to insert a (hopefully) fresh idea in canon that should please fans and studio execs. The only thing I can assume about control over the release date is that they have some sort of marketing machine revving up to tie in a new game with the film.

What do you think? Should gaming companies insist upon more control over their properties to insure their customers (both players and movie-goers) get a good product? Or will too many cooks spoil the soup once again? Check out a trailer from the video game version of Assassin’s Creed below, just in case the movie doesn’t do it justice.

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