Activision Blizzard has launched Activision Blizzard Studios, a film and TV unit set to develop the gaming company’s huge franchises including “Call of Duty,” “Diablo” and “Candy Crush.”
Former Disney executive Nick van Dyk will lead the effort, along with a senior counterpart not yet hired.
The first project on deck is an adaptation of a game called “Skylanders,” which manifests as an animated series named “Skylanders Academy.” Showrunner Eric Rogers (“Futurama”) leads a voice cast featuring Justin Long, Ashley Tisdale, Jonathan Banks and “SNL” alum Norm Macdonald.
“Activision Blizzard is home to some of the most successful entertainment franchises in history, across any medium. With the launch of Activision Blizzard Studios, our engaged fans can now watch the games they love come to life across film and television,” Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard, said in a statement Friday.
“Activision Blizzard Studios has the unique advantage of starting with a library of world-class intellectual property that includes some of the largest franchises which have not yet been developed in film and television,” van Dyk added.
Another top priority for the Santa Monica, California-based company is to develop a “robust cinematic universe” based on “Call of Duty,” a hugely successful first-person shooter game. The company claims their “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” is the top-selling video game on next-gen consoles.
Last week, Activision Blizzard acquired Candy Crush-maker King Digital Entertainment for $5.9 billion in a bid to enter the mobile gaming business.
The mega-acquisition has to go through approval in Ireland, where King is based, but Activision said it anticipates that everything will be official by spring of 2016.
Candy Crush is one of the most lucrative games in the world, earning an estimated $1.33 billion in revenue in 2014 alone
Read the full release below.
Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI) today announced the launch of Activision Blizzard Studios, a new film and television studio devoted to creating original content based on the company’s extensive library of iconic and globally-recognized intellectual properties. Activision Blizzard’s owned content includes some of the most popular entertainment franchises in the world, including Call of Duty®, Skylanders®, Diablo®, Hearthstone® and StarCraft®. Former Disney executive Nick van Dyk has been tapped to co-head the division, along with a senior creative executive who will be announced soon.
Activision Blizzard Studios’ first production will be “Skylanders™ Academy,” an animated TV series based on the award-winning Skylanders game. Currently in production under the supervision of showrunner Eric Rogers (“Futurama”), “Skylanders Academy” will feature the voices of Justin Long (“Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “Ask Me Anything”) as Spyro, Ashley Tisdale (“Phineas and Ferb,” “High School Musical”) as Stealth Elf, Jonathan Banks (“Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul”) as Eruptor and Norm Macdonald (“Saturday Night Live”) as Glumshanks. Additional voice talent includes Harland Williams and Richard Horvitz. The award-winning, $3 billion Skylanders franchise has sold through more than 250 million action figures since pioneering the toys-to-life category in 2011.
Another near-term initiative for Activision Blizzard Studios will be the development of a robust cinematic universe based on the Call of Duty franchise. Call of Duty®: Advanced Warfare remains the number one-selling title on next-generation consoles and today marks the launch of the highly-anticipated new Call of Duty®: Black Ops III. Activision Blizzard Studios envisions a series of Call of Duty feature films as well as the possibility of television adaptations.
“Activision Blizzard is home to some of the most successful entertainment franchises in history, across any medium. With the launch of Activision Blizzard Studios, our engaged fans can now watch the games they love come to life across film and television,” said Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard. “Activision Blizzard Studios is yet another way we’re celebrating our players and fans, and we expect that our film and television productions will entertain and delight whole new audiences, as well. I’m excited that Nick and his team will be leading this important new growth opportunity for Activision Blizzard.”
Kotick added, “We intend to approach film and television development with the same unwavering commitment to excellence we are known for in game development.”
Nick van Dyk, formerly a long-time Walt Disney Company senior executive, will serve as Activision Blizzard Studios’ Co-President, alongside a top creative executive who will be announced soon. Van Dyk will have responsibility for distribution, physical production, strategy, finance and operations and will co-manage all aspects of the studio. Before joining Activision Blizzard last year, van Dyk spent nine years at Disney where, as Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy, he helped drive Disney’s focus on franchise intellectual property and played a significant role in the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. Prior to that, van Dyk was part of Artisan Entertainment’s senior management team.
“Activision Blizzard Studios has the unique advantage of starting with a library of world-class intellectual property that includes some of the largest franchises which have not yet been developed in film and television,” said van Dyk. “Our library spans more than 30 years of global entertainment culture and, in the last 12 months alone, fans of Activision Blizzard properties have played and watched our games online for more than 13 billion hours. This gives us a huge, passionate and deeply-engaged audience that is hungry for more great content built from the universes they already know and love–and which are extremely broad in their appeal.
Van Dyk added, “Activision Blizzard Studios is not just an exciting new business for our company, it is a synergistic complement to our core business. Our movies and shows will benefit from the remarkable IP created in our games and will further increase the awareness of, engagement with, and passion for our franchises.”
Activision Blizzard Studios is another important step in the company’s strategy of expanding the platforms through which it offers its compelling intellectual property to existing fans and new audiences around the world.
The founding of Activision Blizzard Studios follows the company’s announcement on Oct. 22 of a new esports division headed by former ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein and Major League Gaming co-founder and president Mike Sepso. The esports division will build on the Company’s competitive gaming leadership by creating all-new ways to deliver the best-in-class fan experience across games, platforms and geographies, furthering the development of its world-leading esports ecosystem. Activision Blizzard’s other divisions are Activision Publishing and Blizzard Entertainment. On Nov. 2, the company announced its plans to acquire King Digital Entertainment, the creators of the Candy Crush®, Farm Heroes, Pet Rescue and Bubble Witch franchises, which will make it a new global leader in mobile gaming.