Films based on games have had a long and sorry history. But hope springs eternal as Electronic Arts announced today that it has a partner to produce an animated version of the upcoming horror game Dead Space.

EA will partner with Starz Media, which will produce an animated film for TV and DVDs that will appear at the same time that Dead Space launches this Halloween. The game is akin a third-person shooting game where a crew aboard a mining ship has to deal with the discovery of a strange artifact and the aliens that come with it.

This move is part of a clear strategy by Electronic Arts to turn its video games into cross-media entertainment franchises. EA realizes that movie and book licenses are becoming increasingly expensive. It also sees that Hollywood studios such as Warner Bros. are investing heavily in their own video game divisions.

That’s why it has moved to creating more original games. EA is also jumping on a trend where game-based entertainment is starting to become pervasive throughout mass media. Game-based movies in the works include id Software’s “Wolfenstein” and director Uwe Boll’s movie version of the berzerk killer game “Postal.” The film “Hitman,” based on an Eidos Interactive series, did well at the box office, and Angelina Jolie scored some true blockbusters in her “Tomb Raider” films.

Many of the films, such as “Doom,” which starred The Rock, have been critically disappointing. But EA’s move seems like a measured bet. It’s not a full-on first-run movie and so isn’t as risky as some of the other titles. And I’m not sure Dead Space, whose plot and look seem to closely resemble “Doom 3,” will be a mega hit. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that EA is betting on franchising to create “transmedia” properties.

Last month, EA said that it was thinking about some of its properties, such as “Spore,” (our coverage) as franchises from the initial game planning. Spore will feature, among other things, Facebook applications and 3-D plastic custom toys. Film Roman will work on the film with Korea’s Digital Tetra studio.


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