Patterson Enters Gaming Realm

NEW YORK Best-selling author James Patterson has now got game: a casual game, that is. It’s based on his Women’s Murder Club books and its spring release will come on the heels of turning Women’s Murder Club into a TV series starring Angie Harmon.

Players will be able to direct the activity of one of four main characters in the series—a coroner, a police detective, a reporter and a prosecutor—thereby helping the other three solve different crimes. The seek-and-find/adventure game, which will be sold both online and at retail, aims to deepen Patterson’s relationship with his book fans, attract new readers and expand the audience for the ABC-TV series, which premiered in October.

“It’s a very loaded situation,” Patterson told Adweek. “You’ve got detective work, you’ve got autopsy [scenes], you’ve got crime journalism and you’ve got courtroom [action]. So, there’s a lot of places to go in terms of keeping the story moving. And I think that’s true both in the television [series] and with the casual game.”

The Women’s Murder Club game is the first to be produced under a three-year deal that Patterson struck with Oberon Media in early 2007. Under the deal, the author contributes ideas, Oberon—whose game division is based in Seattle—develops games and the partners share profits from the sales of such games, according to Steve Bowen, president of James Patterson Entertainment in New York. Elephant Entertainment in Minneapolis is handling retail distribution.

The first game will be previewed in March on a microsite linked to jamespatterson.com, and will be released broadly in May, according to Tony Leamer, chief marketing officer at Oberon. The price will be $19.95.

“It’s a game that’s designed to be very accessible, very easy to pick up and play,” said Leamer. “The audience for casual games typically is a perfect overlap with the audience for the Patterson books. So, we want to make the game accessible and exciting to that audience.”

The game will be marketed in part via the purchase of search keywords. Future games, such as those based on a Patterson children’s series or an entirely new concept, may offer brand sponsorship or brand placement opportunities for marketers, said Bowen.

Patterson, who served as creative consultant on the game, said, “I wanted it to be lively. I have a notion of ‘sassy and classy’—that the thing have a little bit of bite and that it look pretty good.” What’s more, the story will differ from plots in the books or on TV.

The TV series, for which Patterson is executive producer, has received positive reviews and ratings have been encouraging. But like other network shows, Women’s Murder Club will likely be stalled by the ongoing TV writers’ strike. That doesn’t discourage Patterson, however. “I don’t worry about stuff I can’t control,” he said. “I’ve got eight books coming out next year—no writer’s strike at my house.”