Activision Blizzard Is Getting Into The Television And Movie Business

by Mike Futter on Nov 06, 2015 at 05:50 AM

Activision Blizzard will be broadening its franchises’ already enormous footprints. The company announced today that it will be getting into the film and television business with the new Activision Blizzard Studios.

Two projects have been announced, with more to come. Skylanders at long last gets its own animated television show called Skylanders Academy. The show features familiar actors, including Justin Long (Alvin and the Chipmunks) as Spyro, Ashley Tisdale (Phineas and Ferb) as Stealth Elf, Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad) as Eruptor, Norm McDonald (Saturday Night Live) as Glumshanks, and Richard Horvitz reprising his role as Kaos. The pilot episode is tentatively scheduled for second quarter 2016.

Additionally, Activision Blizzard Studios is working on Call of Duty movies. The first is expected in 2018. When we interviewed Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg, he felt differently about the possibility of a Call of Duty movie franchise.

"Never say never," Hirshberg told us. "But you can screw up a perfectly good game franchise with one bad movie." Likewise, vice president of marketing John Coyne suggested that a Skylanders television show wasn't a priority.

"Games get underestimated as a form of storytelling," vice president of marketing John Coyne told us at Gamescom 2013. "We see the game as the main vehicle for the storytelling of the Skylanders characters. Think about the time that kids spend with these characters and the world of Skylands, and it's the same if not more than they spend with their favorite movies or television shows."

Activision was careful not to entirely write off these possibilities in our conversations. The door was left open for just such a development as the new internal film and television business.

And while the company is already walking the multimedia path with Legendary's upcoming Warcraft film, the projects announced today are being handled internally. Activision has tapped former Disney senior vice president of corporate strategy Nick van Dyk to co-lead the new business. He'll serve as co-president with another executive whose name has yet to be announced.

This news comes during a busy week for Activision, which acquired Candy Crush maker King for $5.9 billion, reported better than expected earnings, and today released Call of Duty: Black Ops III. The company also kicks off Blizzard's biggest annual event, Blizzcon, today in Anaheim, California. 

Note: This story has been corrected with the correct studio working on the Warcraft film.


Our Take
It’s becoming more common for game companies to expand into other media. Ubisoft is currently producing an Assassin’s Creed film and Warner Bros. has found enormous success bridging some of its owned properties into gaming. Keeping things internal gives Activision a measure of control that it wouldn’t have by licensing out projects. Given how huge both of the franchises tied to the announced projects are, the only surprise here is that it took this long.