Atari ignites next-gen Spark

Call of Duty: Finest Hour developer signs deal to make next-generation console games for the France-based publisher, due in 2006.


Although word leaked out the previous summer, last month Activision officially announced that it was making "two new Call of Duty products, one for the PC and one for consoles."

However, company officials would not confirm or deny whether or not "console" products of the franchise would be developed by Infinity Ward, the Activision-owned creator of the original PC Call of Duty, or Spark Unlimited, the independent developer behind the current-generation console version of the game, Call of Duty: Finest Hour. Both studios were formed by former members of the Medal of Honor team at Electronic Arts.

Today, Activision announced that a third and fourth developer--Gray Matter and Treyarch--would be developing one Call of Duty game for unspecified consoles. As for the other console "product," the evidence points to a next-generation game. In May 2004 a job listing on Infinity Ward's Web site called for "seasoned next-generation console engineers to join its ranks to meet the challenge and expectations for these high-end development platforms." However, Activision still had not made any official next-generation announcements as of press time.

Definitive proof of Spark's noninvolvement in the upcoming Call of Duties didn't come until today, when the Sherman Oaks, California-based shop announced a deal with a publisher that wasn't Activison. The lucky winner was Atari, which sent out a press release this morning saying it had entered "into an exclusive agreement...for worldwide publishing rights across all media to all future titles developed by the award-winning creative team at Spark Unlimited."

Were that not definitive enough, this morning's announcement also said that "the first joint project" between the two companies was already "in development for the next generation of consoles." Atari pegged the game's tentative release date as holiday 2006, meaning that it has the potential to be released on several next-generation platforms. The publisher also promised more information "in the spring" (that is, E3) about the all-new intellectual property. The announcement said the IP in question will have "multi-media potential, which Atari will look to exploit in film, television and consumer products."

GameSpot will have more on the Atari-Spark mystery game as further details surface. For more on Spark's latest current-gen console game, read the full review of Call of Duty: Finest Hour.

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