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While many Hollywood studios are developing casual online games for Facebook audiences, there is another emerging avenue for licensed properties to find a global audience. 20th Century Fox is the latest studio to partner with Germany’s Bigpoint on Ice Age Online, an online game that will be distributed to Bigpoint’s 250 million registered users. Bigpoint is also working with HBO on Game of Thrones Online and NBC Universal on Battlestar Galactica Online and The Mummy Online.
In Ice Age Online, players can create their own sloth and take part in an original story that connects with locations and characters from the four movies, including this summer’s July 3D release, Ice Age: Continental Drift. There are multiple gameplay modes to explore, including bonus levels that put players in control of central characters from the $4 billion film franchise.
Jeffrey Godsick, president of Fox Consumer Products, explains why online gaming is changing the way Hollywood studios are interacting with movie fans and why Fox chose to partner with Bigpoint in this exclusive interview.
The Hollywood Reporter: What role do you see online games playing with movie licenses today?
Jeffrey Godsick: The wonderful thing about online games is that they’re completely immersive and constantly evolving, allowing you to consistently engage fans in a way that’s just not possible through traditional licensing platforms. More than just a great gaming experience, they are a device to advance stories and establish a dialogue with fans in a very intimate way. The social elements to these games are also extremely attractive. Ice Age Online is going to allow players to track activity, create friend lists, visit different players’ camps. It’s another layer that deepens the gamer’s experience.
THR: In the past, we’ve seen Ice Age console games. Do you see online worlds replacing these opportunities, especially as many game publishers are moving away from licensed content?
Godsick: There is a greater emphasis now with online games, but we’re continuing to build our console games business. We are soon to announce a major partner on Ice Age for the new film and continue to find best-in-breed publishers and developers for our top IP. Our aim is to have great content where fans of our films and TV shows play, and that’s everywhere the gaming business exists right now across all platforms and devices.
THR: How will you use Ice Age Online to promote new movie and home entertainment releases?
Godsick: The fluidity of an online game allows us to introduce new messaging or information during key windows around film or home entertainment releases. It’s a very powerful tool in terms of promotion because you’re connecting directly with a vested audience. We are working with several divisions across the company to introduce a number of different promotional programs.
THR: What type of marketing opportunities does this game open up for Fox?
Godsick: Ice Age Online will allow us to continue dialogue with fans across all key promotional windows whether it’s home entertainment, theatrical or any other, opening a slew of exciting opportunities that were not before available.
THR: What did you like about Bigpoint’s distribution network with this game versus a Facebook game?
Godsick: Ice Age is one of the world’s most successful family film franchises loved by people of all ages. We didn’t want to potentially exclude any of the fan base with this game, so partnering with one of the best free-to-play game developers in the business today was important in terms of casting the widest net possible.
THR: We’ve seen more online movie games gravitate to Facebook recently. Do you see a role with this game there in the future?
Godsick: Facebook is an amazing platform to connect with audiences, and Fox can speak from a position of experience since our TV brands are some of the most “liked” on the entire site. We’re always going to look to Facebook as a potential partner and powerful channel for our brands. At the moment, there are no plans to introduce this particular game though.
THR: How will this game expand beyond what we’ve seen in the movies?
Godsick: The game will take bits and pieces from the entire franchise – including the upcoming release of Ice Age: Continental Drift – to tell a completely new and unique story. There will be elements within the game that will be very familiar, but the story is going to be a new and different experience.
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