MGM Interactive and EON Productions have awarded Activision the rights to develop and publish games based on the James Bond film licence until 2014.
While MGM's Travis Rutherford paid tribute to Activision's "proven expertise" and "core competency in managing large movie franchises", and Activision's Mike Griffith described Bond as "the ultimate action movie franchise", it was the words left unsaid that will have the biggest impact on gamers and industry figures alike - specifically that Electronic Arts will no longer be handling Bond titles.
EA this morning confirmed to GamesIndustry.biz that the company has ended its relationship with MGM for Bond, with a company spokesperson telling us that the move is part of a broader effort at refocusing the software giant's output on original content rather than licensed franchises."We have decided to end our agreement to make games based on the Bond franchise," the spokesperson confirmed. "Movie games will always be part of our portfolio, but we are moving towards committing resources to wholly owned IP that can be created in our own studios. We wish MGM and their new partners all the best in the future."
Under the terms of the deal announced today, Activision is free to develop and publish games for all current and next-generation consoles, PC and handheld platforms based on James Bond films - as well as non-movie based games.
Until now, EA has enjoyed a similar relationship with MGM and EON - producing games based on recent Bond films Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough, as well as bespoke Bond products like GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, Agent Under Fire, Nightfire and Everything or Nothing, and most recently beginning a trawl through the franchise's back catalogue for inspiration, turning out the multi-platform From Russia With Love adaptation.
But while Agent Under Fire and Everything or Nothing enjoyed relative acclaim, most of EA's recent Bond titles have been roundly slammed by critics - particularly GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, which was seen by many as the polar opposite of the game it set out to emulate, Rare's Nintendo 64 smash hit GoldenEye.
All of EA's Bond titles have enjoyed some degree of commercial success of course, and several have topped the charts, but MGM and EON may well be hoping that Activision can find inspiration where critics felt EA could not.
Speaking about today's announcement, MGM executive vice president Travis Rutherford said, "Activision's proven expertise in developing cutting edge games, their core competency in managing large movie franchises combined with the global appeal of the James Bond property, will create a new benchmark for the next-generation gaming experience."
Meanwhile, Activision Publishing's president and CEO Mike Griffith described Bond as "the ultimate action movie franchise" and said the company was looking forward to establishing a long-term relationship with its new partners. "James Bond storylines are rich with style, drama and action, all of which lend themselves perfectly to developing extraordinary games that capture the thrill of being the most celebrated secret agent in the world," he added.