On May 2, 2011, Ubisoft Motion Pictures was unveiled. The video game publisher and developer had launched a new division to develop their key properties for television and (3D) film adaptations with Assassin's Creed, Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell being the three brands in the works for big screen debuts.
After a somewhat bumpy road with locking down a studio for Assassin's Creed, Michael Fassbender attached himself to the project and Ubisoft partnered with New Regency to produce. Ubisoft later announced that Tom Hardy would headline their other in-development film, Splinter Cell, and now that project has taken the next step as well.
Assassin's Creed originally almost ended up at Sony in a very unique partnership, much to the dismay of rival studio executives. After that deal fell through, a deal that would have given Ubisoft Motion Pictures practically full creative control, it instead ended up at New Regency who Ubisoft praised for their focus on creativity and talent-focused approach to filmmaking, not shying away from making it clear they want their video game movie to be faithful to the video games (and not suck):
"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 relationship is a strong one as Variety reports that Ubisoft has today signed a similar deal to partner with New Regency again for Splinter Cell, their next tentpole adaptation. Jean-Julien Baronnet, CEO of Ubisoft Motion Pictures:
"With actor Tom Hardy attached and screenwriter Eric Warren Singer to write the script, Ubisoft Motion Pictures will lead the development with the support of New Regency to bring the franchise to the big screen in a dynamic way. For Ubisoft Motion Pictures, creative control is key and New Regency shares our commitment to respecting the creative freedom of our team. Their ability to produce both blockbusters and intriguing indie hits is an ideal fit for the 'Splinter Cell' franchise."
From the outset of the formation of Ubisoft Motion Pictures, the goal on the film side was to develop blockbuster franchises to expand the audiences for Assassin's Creed, Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell. Assassin's Creed is their flagship franchise with new installments releasing on a yearly basis, Assassin's Creed 3 being the latest (read Game Rant's review).
Ghost Recon made a long-awaited return earlier this year with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (read Game Rant's review) and Ubisoft tested the waters by marketing that game with the live-action short film Ghost Recon: Alpha, helmed by François Alaux and Hervé de Crécy, the minds behind the Oscar-winning Logorama short.
Splinter Cell is next, and depending on the schedules of Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy, could very well be the first film of the two, as we discussed in episode 66 of the Screen Rant Underground podcast. The timing of the development is important to Ubisoft's cross-media plans as Splinter Cell Blacklist, their sixth game in the series, releases next spring and is the first triple-A video game developed at the newly opened Ubisoft Toronto.
With the signing of high in-demand, A-List talent like Hardy and Fassbender, Ubisoft is taking the right first steps in building long-term bankable adaptations of already-established brands. If their adaptations are both faithful to the games and well-received at the box office and among fans/critics, then the Hollywood approach to video game adaptations will drastically change as a shift in power will see creative control put in the hands of the video game companies. The typical studio system has failed the genre to date, so the question becomes whether or not Ubisoft can buck the trend and launch the genre forward.
New Regency enjoys a distribution partnership with Twentieth Century Fox so expect them to distribute both Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell.