In early 2011, video game publisher and developer Ubisoft formed Ubisoft Motion Pictures, a new division that would develop their flagship video game franchises for television and film with the idea of expanding their audience. The other key component to Ubisoft's expansion is their determination to maintain creative control over their own properties, an obvious concern considering the state of the video game movie genre.
The three brands to be developed first include Assassin's Creed and a pair of Tom Clancy franchises in Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell. Assassin's Creed is first up, and after some developmental hurdles, is officially back on the fast track with Michael Fassbender still on board to produce and star.
Nearly a year ago, Sony Pictures managed to acquire the Assassin's Creed rights but their deal with Ubisoft was rather unique in that other major studios scoffed at the restrictions placed upon Sony. Ubisoft Motion Pictures - in an effort to protect their brand - would have final approval over the script, casting decisions, budget and release date, and this lead to the deal falling apart.
Public perception and industry buzz changed quickly when Ubisoft later announced that Michael Fassbender, one of the hottest and most sought after talents in Hollywood, signed on to not only star, but help produce the Assassin's Creed adaptation. Now, development moving forward with Ubisoft announcing a partnership with New Regency who will help produce the film, with Twentieth Century Fox distributing.
Ubisoft Motion Pictures, the film and television division of Ubisoft, will develop the Assassin’s Creed film in close collaboration with New Regency. The development of a screenplay is beginning immediately and the project is being fast tracked as the creative pieces come together, while allowing Ubisoft to maintain control of key elements of the movie’s creative direction. Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed.
The official announcement makes it abundantly clear that Ubisoft's main stipulation remains, "allowing Ubisoft to maintain control of key elements of the movie's creative direction." Jean-Julien Baronnet, chief executive officer, Ubisoft Motion Pictures:
"Ubisoft chose to partner with New Regency because they are a talent- and filmmaker-driven company, with the same independent and creative mindset that we have at Ubisoft Motion Pictures. Bringing aboard New Regency’s renowned production and distribution expertise while maintaining our own creative and financial flexibility ensures that Assassin’s Creed will be a high-quality film that respects the lore and fans of the video game franchise."
The Assassin's Creed script is currently in the works and the project will represent the first feature-length live-action film from Ubisoft Motion Pictures. The timing of the announcement comes only a week before Assassin's Creed 3 (image below) hits store shelves - the fifth game in the core series and last chapter in the story of protagonist Desmond Miles.
The series tells the the story of a bartender named Desmond Miles who's captured by a mysterious corporation and put into a machine called the Animus that lets him relive the memories of his ancestors, Assassins, who are mixed in a worldwide conspiracy and timeless war against the Templars. Desmond, and his lineage, must locate mysterious artifacts to aid them in their quest.
As for the next two properties in development, Ghost Recon made a return to video games after a five-year absence with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier this spring and up next spring is Splinter Cell Blacklist.
Which characters and stories (and time periods) from the games will be included in the first Assassin's Creed film - and who Michael Fassbender will play -remains a mystery.
Will the creator-controlled Assassin's Creed be the first major video game blockbuster film adaptation to win at the box office, and earn positive reception from the fans and critics?
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.