A couple weeks ago we reported that Sony was in final negotiations with Ubisoft to acquire the film rights to ‘Assassin’s Creed.’ Since then the deal has gone through and Sony now owns the movie version of the game but at what price?
If you recall, several studios were very interested in the project, but one of the main conditions in the contract was that Ubisoft would have control over how the game would be used in the movie. Now that the ink has dried on the deal, more information on how much that control means has many in Hollywood in shock.
According to Vulture, a talent agent who represents another video game publisher told them, “The whole Ubisoft/Sony deal is a waste of ink, paper and time. The level of control Sony gave up means, effectively, that Assassin’s Creed will never — and I mean never — get made.” So what did Sony give up? Basically everything. Sony agreed to give Ubisoft approval over the budget, principal cast, the script and even the release date! Insiders are flabbergasted as this amount of control out of a studio’s hands is unheard of.
Dreamworks, Universal and Warner Bros. all passed on the deal as they thought that Ubisoft’s demands were too restrictive for them. Although they all understand how the gaming company is protective over their products, as one studio executive explains, “… they’re not moviemakers, and the only way to make sure it’s a bad movie is to undervalue what movie studios do — and this is a deal that totally undervalues what movie studios do.” Another who worked for a studio that also dropped out of the deal process said “They want to be able to pull the plug on the whole movie’s development if they decide to. It’s ridiculous.”
Ubisoft defends its actions by using the box office failure of Disney’s ‘Prince of Persia’, another one of their gaming franchises, as an example. They felt that lack of ticket sales from the movie would not have happened if they had more control over the content. Disney, of course, countered by saying that the movie didn’t fare well because Ubisoft had too much influence.
Ubisoft is so determined to prevent this from happening to ‘Assassin’s Creed’, that they made sure they would have almost complete control over the whole movie making process. According to an insider, they did this by offering up a large part of their own money to fund the project. That means Sony would only have to invest “a fraction of what a studio typically would spend to option or develop a script”. With the movie business experiencing a downward economy, for Sony not to have to shell out millions of dollars on making a movie that already has the potential of being big with an already established fan base is a win-win on their end.
With over 30 million copies sold of the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ games and a fourth one coming out in a couple weeks, it’s no wonder that Ubisoft feels that there is a lot riding on the success of a movie version for the game. But is it a good idea to let them control every aspect of the movie? Or should they let the studios, who know what they are doing, take the reins? Many studio executives feel that Ubisoft is acting like the little child who won’t let others play with their ball unless they follow Ubisoft’s rules. But then again, the studios haven’t exactly fared well on their own movie versions of games… anyone remember ‘Mario Brothers?’
Only time will tell whether Ubisoft will be an accommodating partner or a dictator when it comes to the movie ‘Assassin’s Creed’ getting on the silver screen. What do you think are its chances?