Steven Spielberg, EA ink three-game next-gen deal

Iconic director will oversee development of a trio of original properties; no word yet on possible film spin-offs.

In 1995, newly formed film studio DreamWorks SKG announced it was establishing a game division, DreamWorks Interactive. Gamers' hopes everywhere were raised by news, since one of the studio's founders was Steven Spielberg. The thought of a game infused with the director's storytelling ability and cinematic eye was a welcome prospect, and it gave a stamp of artistic legitimacy to an industry that was--and still is--largely misunderstood by mainstream society.

Those aspirations were realized in Medal of Honor, the 1999 PlayStation game that Spielberg provided the original concept for. Released to huge sales and critical acclaim, the DreamWorks Interactive-developed game almost single-handedly established the now-crowded World War II first-person-shooter genre. So successful was the game that its publisher, Electronic Arts, bought DreamWorks Interactive from Spielberg and his partners in 2000. Soon thereafter, the shop was merged with Westwood Studios to form EALA. That internal studio has been developing Medal of Honor games ever since, the latest of which, Medal of Honor: European Assault, was released in July.

But while EA and Spielberg's paths may have parted five years ago, the two reconnected today, when the publisher and director announced they were partnering once again. EA has announced a deal with Spielberg that will see the director "collaborating with the game makers at EA's Los Angeles studio (EALA) to create three new original games," according to the publisher.

The agreement will see Spielberg supervising the development of three original games--unrelated to the director's previous films--from an office inside the EALA studio. EA will own the game rights to the titles, while Spielberg's personal production company, Amblin Entertainment, will retain the rights to develop them into television or film projects. The deal is completely independent of DreamWorks, although any film or television adaptation of the games would likely be produced by the company.

Speaking to GameSpot, Neil Young, EA vice president and EALA studio head, divulged some details about the Spielberg deal. He said development of the first of the three games has already begun, although he would give no clues as to a release date. Young also said that all three games will "lead on next-generation consoles," although he wouldn't rule out current-generation versions.

"He's a pretty passionate gamer--he loves the medium," said Young of Spielberg. "He is pretty excited about the technology right now, what the next generation of platforms can do. He believes the next generation of platforms is ready to convey the sort of entertainment experience that he's always wanted to make."

Young emphasized the closeness of the collaboration between Spielberg and the EALA development team working on the project. That team will be lead by Doug Church, a 13-year industry veteran who worked on the Thief and Deus Ex series at Ion Storm and Eidos Interactive. Church joined EA in July. However, Young said the game currently being worked on would bear no similarity to any of Church's past projects. "We're looking at something entirely new," he said, but would not discuss its genre.

For an in-depth rundown on the Spielberg deal, EA's film aspirations, and the increasingly collaborative efforts between Hollywood and the game industry, check out GameSpot's Q&A with Neil Young.

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