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Bruckheimer tries his hand at game action

Jerry Bruckheimer, the producer of action films and television shows such as “Top Gun,” “Black Hawk Down” and “C.S.I,” now thinks video games are where the action is.

Bruckheimer is the latest Hollywood kingpin to dive into the $50-billion-and-growing global game industry. Lured by software sales that have eclipsed those of the music industry and long ago surpassed box-office revenue, many film and TV executives have gone down the same path -- only to find success elusive in the risky, hits-driven game business.

Bruckheimer plans to announce today the creation of Jerry Bruckheimer Games Inc., a studio based in Santa Monica. He said in an interview Monday that his interest in the burgeoning entertainment genre was driven by the narrative opportunities.

“Games are evolving just like movies,” he said. “There’s storytelling and there’s character development in games. . . . We’re in the entertainment business. We entertain you in theaters, on TV and on your game platforms.”

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But Bruckheimer, who is famed for his Midas touch with films, doesn’t hide his lack of expertise in games.

“I have never developed a game,” he said. “I’m kind of a neophyte at this.”

That’s why he hired two veterans of the game industry, Jay Cohen as president of development and Jim Veevaert as president of production, he said.

Veevaert, 46, was executive producer of the popular shoot-'em-up game Halo 3 at Microsoft Corp. Cohen, 38, was senior vice president of publishing in North America for Ubisoft Entertainment, the French publisher of games with strong back stories such as Prince of Persia, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed.

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Hollywood’s track record with games has been mixed.

Director Steven Spielberg teamed up with Microsoft in 1995 to create DreamWorks Interactive, only to sell the company five years later to Electronic Arts Inc.

Sumner Redstone, who holds a controlling stake in Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp., lost hundreds of millions of dollars from his acquisition of Midway Games Inc.

And Brash Entertainment, which made a splash in 2007 with promises of $400 million in funding from Hollywood A-listers including “Dark Knight” producer Thomas Tull, crumbled in November.

“Game designers should stay away from films, and film producers should stay away from games,” said Billy Pidgeon, an analyst with research firm IDC. “They’re just two different mediums.”

Veevaert said Jerry Bruckheimer Games was taking a unique approach to games that differentiates it from other Hollywood attempts.

“For one thing, this is not Hollywood approaching games,” he said. “Jay and I have worked on a number of successful game projects. We’re bringing the best talent in Hollywood together with the best talent in games to make entertainment that is complementary.”

Cohen said the new company would develop original franchises and work with outside development studios to create the games. The team will also tap Viacom’s MTV Games unit, which publishes the Rock Band game franchise, to publish any titles the group produces.

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Bruckheimer has said that he’s in the “transportation business” because his films transport audiences to other places. He said the same is true of games.

“It’s all part of entertainment, to take people out of their daily lives and bring them into our worlds,” he said. “And games certainly do that.”

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alex.pham@latimes.com


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