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Dead Island trailer attracts Hollywood and possibly lawsuits

One week ago, no more than a handful of people had heard of the game from Polish developer Techland, Dead Island, and those that did knew it as a troubled game that had spent much of its time in limbo before being rescued by publisher Deep Silver. The game was originally announced in 2007, and after a series of potential publishers, the project seemed dead in the water. No pun intended.

Techland refused to give up on the game, but it also put it on the backburner. Time passed, and Dead Island was mostly forgotten. Then Deep Silver stepped in, Techland returned to the game, and development continued with a tentative November 2011 release window eyed. But how do you take a once troubled and now forgotten zombie game in an industry already saturated by the undead, and grab the attention of gamers? You make a really, really good trailer.

Or more specifically, you hire a company like Axis Animation and have them make an outstanding trailer, which is exactly what they did. Axis Animation, like Blur Studios and a handful of other animation companies, is an independent group hired by developers and publishers to create trailers and in-game animations for upcoming games. Besides Dead Island, the group recently worked on Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, Microsoft Flight and Singularity to name a few. To be clear, Axis does not have any connection to Dead Island other than the contracted trailer, but it sounds more and more like Techland owe them a big thanks, and perhaps a lovely gift basket or two for their work.

Within 24 hours of release, the Dead Island trailer was viewed by over 1 million people, and that does not count the number of times it appeared on TV or the various websites that hosted the video without linking it. People took notice, and among those watching were several Hollywood studios.

Things moved so quickly that on Friday, Deadline was reporting that the Sean Daniel Company had purchased the rights to the game through Union Entertainment, a company that acts as a broker for properties like video games. Sean Daniel himself has been a producer on several films, including The Mummy franchise, The Wolfman and Everyday People among others, and with him on board, the chances of the film actually being made are high. The report also claimed that several studios are actively negotiating to make the film, with various talent packages and possible story lines being proposed, and a deal is expected within the week. It seems like a fairly cut and dry situation. Video game makes good, payday awaits. Then again, maybe not.

The entertainment site HitFix is reporting that despite several sources confirming the purchase, the publisher Deep Silver has said in a written reply that the rights to Dead Island have not been sold. The response came from Malte Wagener, Director of Global Business Development for Deep Silver:

While we would be honored to work with someone of Sean’s caliber, we have not sold any IP rights to his company as of today.

We’ve seen a huge interest in the movie rights of the IP and are currently looking through a vast amount of requests and inquiries. No decision has been made as of yet.

We are looking for quality above all else, so you will not see a quick sell on this. If we are to do it, we want to do it right as the game/movie – movie/game “genre” is full of examples of simple copy cat that were done to make a quick buck and failed. We will not go down that route with Dead Island.

There are several possible reasons for this, ranging from a simple miscommunication or inaccurate reporting, to Deep Silver seeing dollar signs and actively negotiating with several companies at once to raise the bidding price despite the potential deal with Sean Daniel Company.

Hopefully this is simply a matter of someone out of the loop erroneously passing on information that was only half correct. If so, a new deal should be announced soon, as Hollywood loves momentum and will likely act now before the interest wanes. Of course, the game itself, a melee based zombie title might not be able to live up to the hype of the trailer, so Deep Silver may want to push through a sale sooner rather than later. On the other hand, if the initial report is correct and the game has been sold, expect hordes of lawyers to attack with a greater ferocity than any undead creature could ever hope to imitate.

Odds are we haven’t heard the last on this story, but for now check out the trailer below that started all the interest in the first place.

[Warning: this trailer may not be appropriate for all ages]