Activision Visionaries Set Sights on Star Trek

Activision brass sounds off on the company's new Star Trek license and answer the question: So you've paid the big bucks, now what do you do?

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It's anyone's guess what the PC and console gaming landscape will look like in the year 2008. So the announcement made by Activision yesterday outlining its ten-year agreement with Viacom Entertainment - to license the Star Trek brand for the purposes of creating multiplatform games - created a sense of awe in those hearing the news. Today, it's easy to consider likely PC iterations of Star Trek games. And although the formula for creating a critical and commercially successful console title based on the Star Trek franchise hasn't been cracked, it's not impossible to contemplate someone - maybe even Activision - finally getting it right. But ten years from now, what will gamers be playing on? Would that be the PlayStation 6? The Dreamcast 4? The N256? The Toyota Game Boy Minivan?

Regardless of what the machines of 2008 will be called, estimates of revenues the license will generate are sky high. The New York Times on Monday estimated the license could well result in up to $600 million dollars in retail sales over the life of the contract. Most Activision sources declined to address those estimates on the record. One who did, Activision's Mitch Lasky, suggested the Times may have in fact erred - on the low side. Lasky, who as senior vice president studios arguably holds Activision's top creative post, said the figure was "probably conservative."

Lasky shed some light on the company's next step in developing Star Trek properties and what it is about Activision that makes such an agreement feasible. The deal, while in the works for some time, was only announced some 24 hours earlier, so Lasky did express caution in presenting an iron-clad recipe for anything resembling a full Star Trek lineup. He had no trouble, however, speaking to his high hopes.

"We have tremendous hard-core credibility and a tremendously ravenous fan base," Lasky said. And, "we have a fairly wide range of opportunities in terms of technology." But beyond the blue sky speculation there is the nagging question: What next?

"One of the first places we start is looking at what's been successful in the sci-fi world so far. We've looked at the Lucas history and pattern of exploitation." Lasky said success with the franchise will not only be the result of a keen sense of history - who's done well in the past and how can Activision emulate that success - but also a sense of the changing demographics and the power of a brand name.

Lasky knows that the profile of your average gamer has changed - and will continue to. "I wouldn't call it a shift, but traditionally it's been a hard-core business - not a business casual consumers could penetrate. now we can really bridge those two groups content that speaks to hard-core gamers and at the same time, make those games accessible to a broader audience... but not by dummying down the game."

Lasky has his work cut out for him. He and the 80 or so staffers of the studio operations and the 50 or so staffers at Activision's Madison, Wisconsin, location (otherwise known as Raven Software) will get game making under way ASAP. The first title to come out of the new agreement will be a PC title based on the upcoming Paramount holiday release, Star Trek: Insurrection.

Lasky says that in the end, this "tremendous opportunity" will flourish due to Activision's "very deep recognition of the general entertainment audience."

With millions of Activision's own money riding on it, and the desire for someone, anyone, to get the Star Trek formula right, gamers can only wish Lasky and crew the best of luck.

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