Disney’s Marvel has partnered with the new-media unit of Skydance Media to build “a narrative-driven, blockbuster action-adventure game, featuring a completely original story and take on the Marvel Universe,” the companies said.
“I can’t imagine a better partner than Marvel for our first game,” said Amy Hennig, president of Skydance New Media and an award-winning, long-time game creator. “The Marvel Universe epitomizes all the action, mystery and thrills of the pulp adventure genre that I adore and lends itself perfectly to an interactive experience. It’s an honor to be able to tell an original story with all the humanity, complexity, and humor that makes Marvel characters so enduring and to enable our players to embody these heroes that they love.”
The release announcing the new interactive title contains little other substantive information, beyond promising that its production team is “ laser-focused on creating high-fidelity, richly interactive experiences crafted for traditional gaming platforms as well as emerging streaming services and designed to be appealing, inviting, and accessible to a global audience.”
Skydance New Media’s veteran creative team will be bolstered by “a diverse team of creative consultants from the worlds of film, television, and comics,” according to the release. The new media unit was created to build “a new category of story-focused interactive entertainment—a groundbreaking convergence of games, film, and television,” according to the release.
“Amy has been setting the bar for narrative adventure games for decades and we are happy to be collaborating with the talented and experienced New Media team at Skydance,” said Marvel EVP Jay Ong, who heads Marvel Games. “Their ambition and vision for making innovative entertainment using beloved Marvel IP was obvious from our first meeting. We’re excited to share more with Marvel fans when the time is right.”
Marvel characters have been the basis for numerous game titles over the years, both in collectives and groups such as the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, and with specific characters such as Spider-Man. Marvel claims more than 8,000 characters in its universe.
This fall, Disney and Marvel have rolled out two more ensemble movies that could be the basis for new game experiences as well. One, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, has been a smash success both financially and critically since its Labor Day Weekend debut. It marks the start of another cycle in the intricate and hugely popular Marvel Cinematic Universe of Avengers, et al, and has been the year’s highest grossing domestic release, with a cumulative box office gross of $221 million, according to BoxOfficeMojo.
The other film, Eternals, is loosely connected to the existing MCU. It debuts domestically on Nov. 5, though it has been critically panned in many early reviews. The company is also debuting a string of planned MCU episodic series on streaming service Disney Plus in coming months, including Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk.
Hennig’s 30-year career includes a decade-long stint at Sony game studio Naughty Dog as creative director for five titles in the hit Uncharted series, after eight years at Crystal Dynamics, working on three Soul Reaver titles. Hennig began her career at Electronic Arts and returned most recently there as senior creative director and writer of a different Disney project, an untitled Visceral Games’ Star Wars title.
Hennig has won a BAFTA and two Writers Guild of America awards for her games writing. She also has lifetime achievement awards from BAFTA and the Game Developers Choice Awards for her contributions to the industry.
The project is the first for Skydance’s AAA game studio, headed by Hennig and another Electronic Arts veteran, Julian Beak, who is EVP and general manager.
Skydance is the media company founded by David Ellison, son of billionaire Oracle founder and chairman Larry Ellison. The younger Ellison’s company has produced a lengthy string of prominent features and series, including The Tomorrow War, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Reacher, The Old Guard, 6 Underground, Grace and Frankie, as well as the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick, and the seventh and eighth installments of Mission: Impossible.
Skydance New Media corporate sibling Skydance Interactive creates and publishes immersive video games such as The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, which received several award nominations.
“We are enormously excited to be working inside the Marvel Universe to craft a rich narrative of our own,” said Beak. “Jay and his team at Marvel Games are helping us make the best experiences imaginable.”
Horizon Media, Madison Avenue’s Long-Time Independent Media Shop, Sells Minority Stake – Variety
Horizon Media, one of the largest advertising companies not owned by the big publicly-traded entities that dominate the industry, intends to sell off a minority stake to investment firms, ending its decades of pursuing a purely go-it-alone strategy.
Horizon, long controlled by entrepreneur Bill Koenigsberg, said it had sold a piece of the company to Temasek, a Singapore investment firm. LionTree Advisors, an investment firm led by Aryeh Bourkoff, will also become an investor as part of the transaction. Financial terms were not disclosed, but Koenigsberg is to remain “the long-term majority shareholder” of the agency. Horizon was founded in 1989, employs 2,500 people and manages media investments valued at more than $9.5 billion
“Horizon sees more opportunity than ever before to take advantage of gaps in the marketplace and continue our significant growth in driving positive business outcomes for our clients. In evaluating the next evolution of Horizon, I wanted a world class partner who is like-minded strategically, has the same appetite for growth, understands the media, marketing, and technology landscape, is global in scale, and culturally aligned,” Koenigsberg said in a statement. “I found that perfect combination in Temasek and LionTree.”
Horizon is one of a handful of large firms that help advertisers allocate and invest millions of dollars in advertising, serving all the while as influential go-betweens that deal with blue-chip marketers and the media outlets they need to get the word out about their products and services. Horizon has long worked for Berkshire Hathaway’s Geico, one of the nation’s biggest ad spenders, along with Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Corona beer and CBS. Horizon is also involved in the launch of the Hoop Dreams Classic, an event that is backed by actor Michael B. Jordan and WarnerMedia among others.
But the other media buying giants, like Magna, Omnicom Media Group and GroupM, are backed by Madison Avenue giants like Interpublic Group, Omnicom Group and WPP. Koenigsberg has, over the years, chosen to remain independent — and some clients have appreciated it.
In the past, Koenigsberg has seen his company’s independence as an advantage. “Being CEO for the company for the last 30 years and having a long-term vision is an enormous competitive advantage, because when I look at my competitors — and I don’t want to go back 30 years, let me go back 10 — there have probably been 100 different CEOs at my competitor agencies,” he told Ad Age in 2020. “When a new one comes in, they feel the need to shake things up and leave a mark,” he said, adding: “There’s an inconsistency in where they’re going. For me, I’ve had a much longer runway and an ability to drive the business forward with this long-term vision.”
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‘Frantic race backwards’ for China media freedoms: Report – Al Jazeera English
Reporters Without Borders says at least 127 journalists are detained in China, as Beijing takes ever harsher line on media freedoms.
At least 127 journalists – from major international news outlets to bloggers – are currently detained in China as the Chinese Communist Party continues a major crackdown on media initiated by President Xi Jinping, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has said in a new report.
China now ranks 177 out of 180 in the media watchdog’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index, two slots above North Korea, thanks to a sweeping campaign to limit free expression across every sector of society.
In the report, published on Tuesday, Secretary General Christophe Deloire described China as a country in the midst of a “ frantic race backwards” as Chinese citizens continue to lose press freedom.
Chinese journalists and writers have become a target of the campaign and face charges such as espionage, subversion and “picking quarrels”. They include whistleblowers like Zhang Zhan, a Chinese lawyer who last year was sentenced to four years in prison for documenting the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, and Cheng Lei, an Australian Chinese anchor at Chinese state media outlet CGTN who was formally arrested in February and accused of supplying state secrets overseas.
Prior to their formal arrest, many detained journalists may spend up to six months under “residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL),” according to the media group. Institutionalised in China in 2012, the practice allows authorities to hold an individual in solitary confinement and constant supervision at a designated facility. The practice is frequently described as “torture” by those who have experienced it.
Cheng was detained in August 2020 and reportedly underwent RSDL before she was formally charged six months later. Her trial and sentencing have yet to be announced.
Nearly two-thirds of journalists detained in China are Uighurs, according to RSF, many of whom helped to raise the alarm about China’s campaign of repression against the Muslim ethnic minority and other groups in the far western region of Xinjiang. Uighur journalists and bloggers appear to face harsher sentences than their Han Chinese counterparts, like Ilham Tohti, an economist and founder of the website Uyghur Online who was sentenced to life in prison for “separatism” in 2014.
Affiliation with major news outlets or second citizenship in a Western country has also failed to protect Chinese journalists, who under Chinese law can only work as “news assistants” for foreign media.
The release of the report coincided with the first anniversary of the detention of Haze Fan, a news assistant for New York-based Bloomberg News, who was taken away by plain-clothes police officers in Beijing last year. On Tuesday, Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said the media group was “very worried about her well-being” after 12 months of detention.
In a bid to control Chinese journalists in the future, the report noted, Chinese journalists are required to download an app “Study Xi, Strengthen the Country,” which can download their personal data, while they will soon have to undergo 90 hours of ideological training each year to renew their press card.
While the country has never been known as an easy place to report from, foreign journalists say that conditions in China have become more challenging in recent years and even more so under COVID-19 regulations, according to surveys by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China. In 2020, 18 foreign journalists were forced to leave China due to deteriorating diplomatic relations between China, the United States and Australia.
China’s crackdown has also extended into Hong Kong, a former British colony once considered one of the most open places in Asia.
The territory is the regional headquarters of media organisations including CNN, AFP and Reuters due to its formerly high level of press freedom.
Following months of democracy protests in 2019 and the imposition of national security legislation, Hong Kong media has also found itself under attack, RSF said.
One of the highest profile cases was the closure of pro-democracy news outlet Apple Daily and the arrest of its founder Jimmy Lai, who is facing life imprisonment for “colluding with foreign forces” under the terms of the new legislation.
Six additional Apple Daily employees are also in detention, including the newspaper’s former chief editor and several writers.
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