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Lord of the Rings' director signs on for 'Halo'
Director Peter Jackson forms game development studio, will collaborate on one of two new 'Halo' titles for Xbox 360.
Game Over is a regular column by Chris Morris

NEW YORK ( -- Director Peter Jackson, who won an Academy Award for his "Lord of the Rings" films, is adding another title to his resume: video game mogul. The filmmaker and Microsoft Wednesday announced a partnership to launch a development studio and collaborate on a new "Halo" game.

Jackson, who is also producing a big-screen "Halo" movie, will work with Microsoft to create Wingnut Interactive, which will focus exclusively on video games. The unit's first title will be an as yet unnamed game set in the "Halo" universe. Wingnut will work with Bungie Studios, which created the franchise and is currently working on "Halo 3," a separate title due out next year.

Three "Halo" games are currently in development at Microsoft.
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Wingnut will also work with Microsoft (Charts) to create another original game that will focus on attracting people who do not traditionally play video games.

In other "Halo" news, Microsoft-owned Ensemble Studios (makers of the "Age of Empires" franchise) also revealed it has been working on a game set in that universe: "Halo Wars," a real-time strategy game for the Xbox 360.

"For the Halo nation, it's a pretty exciting day," said Scott Henson, director of Microsoft's Advanced Technology Group.

The announcements came Wednesday at Microsoft's annual X06 event, held in Barcelona, Spain. The company would not say whether it had made a financial investment in Jackson's game studio, and no release dates were given.

Jackson's collaboration with the company will also extend to the HD-DVD peripheral that will go on sale this fall. Microsoft said the player, which will go on sale in the United States in mid-November for $199.99, will come with a HD-DVD version of Jackson's film "King Kong."

Microsoft has a head start over its competitors in the next-generation console market, having launched the Xbox 360 last year. To date, more than 5 million units have sold, and the company said it is on track to sell 10 million by the end of the year.

Sony (Charts), though, begins fighting back on Nov. 17 with the release of the PlayStation 3. The PlayStation 2 currently commands roughly 70 percent of the global console market, which could work to its benefit in the next generation.

Part of the key to Sony's success has been having exclusive deals with game makers on highly successful titles, such as Take Two Interactive Software's (Charts) "Grand Theft Auto." In the next round of the console wars, though, it will not have that advantage.

Microsoft today announced Take Two will offer Xbox 360 players of "GTA 4" two exclusive, downloadable, episodic add-ons within months of the game's release. (The new "GTA" will release simultaneously on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.) Additionally, Take Two confirmed the upcoming title "Bioshock," which wowed critics earlier this year at E3, would be console-exclusive to the 360.

Also, the company plans to further its attempt to win over a younger audience, announcing plans for a new installment in the "Banjo-Kazooie" franchise. Rare Ltd, which created the series for Nintendo, will once again develop the game.

Microsoft's partnership with Jackson, while certainly noteworthy, isn't exactly unheralded in the gaming world. In October, 2005, Electronic Arts and director Steven Spielberg announced they would be working together to create three original games for next-generation consoles.

Midway Games (Charts), meanwhile, is working with director John Woo for the upcoming "Stranglehold."

Many expect these sort of partnerships to continue in the coming years as the audience for video games continues to expand and the graphical quality of games continues to advance.

Morris is Director of Content Development for Send him an email at Top of page

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