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Warner Interactive looks to build on Arkham City's success in 2012

October 18, 2011 | 11:02 am

ArkhamCity

With the new Batman video game Arkham City, a Hollywood studio may finally have a true interactive blockbuster and also the respect of notoriously skeptical gamers.

On sale today, Arkham City from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has garnered unanimously rave notices, ranking as the best reviewed video game of the year on the compilation site Metacritic. Sales expectations are well above the 4.3 million units that the game's predescessor, Arkham Asylum, sold in 2009. Pre-orders are twice as high, said the studio, as is interest among gamers, according to research firm Ipsos OTX.

Like many other media conglomerates, Warner and its parent company, Time Warner, have tried to build a successful video game business for years, initially with little success. But while others retrenched from or exited video games, Warner stuck with it. The studio best known for movies such as "The Hangover" and "The Dark Knight" spent hundreds of millions to acquire development talent and brands not closely tied to its movies.

That effort is creating very strong results this year. April's ninth Mortal Kombat game, which came from the studio's acquisition of Midway Games, was a solid hit, with more than 3 million units sold. Arkham is poised to be a blockbuster and expectations are high for November's Lego Harry Potter: Books 5-7. 2011 will bring Warner Interactive's nearly $1 billion in sales and be its most profitable year, said unit President Martin Tremblay (despite the failure of summer games F.E.A.R. 3 and Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters, as well as more modest expectations for November's Lord of the Rings: War in the North).

Matching the 2011 performance next year will be difficult, Tremblay admitted, but the studio has several big guns in the works. The only game announced for 2012 is the downloadable title Gotham City Imposters (a Batman-related fighting game), but people familiar with the studio's plans who requested anonymity because the titles have not been announced confirmed several other games coming next year. They include a sequel to 2008 hit kids game Lego Batman, which will be released close to the movie "The Dark Knight Rises"; a Hobbit game that will likely launch several months before December movie "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"; and a game featuring an unidentified DC Comics superhero.

Nonetheless, Tremblay said, the company probably won't exceed $1 billion in video game sales until 2013. While no games have yet been announced for that year, sequels to both Mortal Kombat and Arkham City are likely among the key releases the executive has in mind.

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— Ben Fritz

Photo: A scene from the new Batman video game, Arkham City. Credit: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

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