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New Batman video game a major hit, G.I. Joe game disappoints

September 14, 2009 | 10:37 am

BatmanArkham Warner Bros. may not have a new Batman movie this year, but the Caped Crusader is turning out to be the biggest thing in Hollywood-licensed video games.

Batman: Arkham Asylum sold 593,000 units in August according to NPD Group, which tracks industry sales. It's the biggest first-month sales for any video game this year based on a Hollywood property and particularly impressive given that Arkham Asylum was released Aug. 25, meaning NPD only tracked its sales for five days.

Warner said last week that Arkham Asylum, which received stellar reviews, had sold nearly 2 million units worldwide through Sept. 8, a very strong launch for a video game.

Though Warner Bros. didn't publish the game, it will benefit financially from Arkham Asylum in two ways. As the licenser to publisher Eidos, it receives royalties on game sales. In addition, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, the studio's video game publishing unit, handled sales and marketing in the United States on behalf of Eidos and gets a percentage of the game's domestic revenue for those services.

Some in the video game industry criticized Warner Bros. last year for failing to release a video game alongside the hugely successful "The Dark Knight." Electronic Arts had started development on a Dark Knight game but scrapped it because of production problems. However, Arkham Asylum, which features an original story in which Batman is trapped in the prison that houses many of his most dangerous foes, has been extremely well received by reviewers and seems to have benefited from a release in the historically barren month of August, when an annual sequel to Madden NFL usually scares off all potential competitors.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the only other major video game based on a Hollywood property to be released in August, was a flop. Electronic Arts' adaptation of the Paramount film sold just 136,000 units all month despite being released Aug. 3. Hasbro, maker of the G.I. Joe toys, was the primary licenser to EA, though Paramount had an interest in the video game and other related merchandise.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: A scene from Batman: Arkham Asylum. Credit: Eidos.