French publisher Ubisoft has signed a deal with VIZ Media, the North American license holder for the wildly popular Naruto manga franchise, to develop an Xbox 360 game based on the series for release in 2007.
Naruto has been one of the most popular manga and latterly anime series in the world since its launch in leading Japanese weekly manga magazine Shonen Jump in 1999, and the anime series based on the comics is now running on Cartoon Network in the US.
As you might expect from a manga focused on the training and battles of a group of young ninjas, Naruto has spawned quite a number of games - most notably a very popular series of beat 'em up titles on the GameCube - but few of these have ever seen the light of day outside Japan.
Ubisoft's license for the series is somewhat peculiar in that it will see the company developing an Xbox 360 game based on a popular Japanese property, but not for the Japanese market - the company doesn't have the rights to launch Naruto titles within Japan, where they are held by Namco Bandai.
The French company plans to develop the game using its own significant internal development resources, and will release it across the western hemisphere in 2007 - by which point the anime series should be well into its run on TV networks in most major territories.
It would appear that Ubisoft's license is also non-exclusive, and Japanese-developed Naruto games will continue to be released in western territories - with the next one due for launch being CyberConnect2's Naruto: Ultimate Ninja, which will appear in North America in June.