Cash-strapped Atari dumped one of its properties today, partially making good on its announcement that several of its holdings would be sold off. The rights to the Driver franchise were sold to fellow countrymen Ubisoft for 19 million euros ($24 million). The deal is expected to close during Ubisoft's second fiscal quarter, which ends September 30, 2006.
Also moving from Atari's banner to Ubisoft's are "most of the assets and all of the personnel" of Driver's developer, UK-based Reflections Interactive. Atari will retain the sell-off rights for a three-month period on all the Driver games except for Driver: Parallel Lines, the most recent chapter of the franchise, which it will hold until the end of 2006.
Atari CEO Bruno Bonnell said, "We are focusing the energy of the company on a select number of franchises in order to optimize their impact among consumers and increase shareholder value. In the driving category, we consider Test Drive our key franchise which will require more resources and attention to build it as a landmark of its genre."
Ubisoft was happy to get behind the wheel of Driver. "We are thrilled with this acquisition which will allow us to add a prestigious title to our catalog and to enter into the driving games segment, one of the most important segments in the gaming industry," said Ubi CEO Yves Guillemot.
It appears that Ubisoft is betting the Driver games still have some gas in the tank. Even with mediocre reviews, Driv3r sold well. Unfortunately for Atari, the same held true for the reviews of Driver: Parallel Lines, but not its sales.
Test Drive Unlimited, Atari's new ride, will be released later this year on multiple platforms. A movie based on the Driver franchise is currently being adapted into a film by Roger Avary.