After you’ve successfully rebooted Star Trek and Star Wars and helped launch one of HBO’s most popular shows, what do you do next? For J.J. Abrams, the answer is video games.
Bad Robot, Abrams’ production company, has partnered with China’s Tencent to form Bad Robot Games, a publishing unit that will distribute both small independent titles and AAA games for consoles. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is also a minority investor in the venture.
Bad Robot isn’t exactly new to the video game business. It has assisted with the creation of augmented reality titles (tied with the Cloverfield films) and mobile apps. But this is its biggest step into the industry so far.
For gamers, the biggest question about the announcement is what this means for Abrams’ relationship with Valve Software.
In 2013, Abrams and Valve’s Gabe Newell appeared on stage to tease a Bad Robot game, as well as cinematic adaptations of the Valve’s Half-Life and Portal franchises. Neither has materialized and Valve is largely out of the game-making business these days, focusing more on its Steam digital distribution portal.
Inquiries about the state of Bad Robot’s relationship with Valve were not answered.
Abrams has been a fan of video games for a long time, though. When the disappointing video game adaptation of Star Trek came out in 2013, he was among its biggest critics.
Two years ago, when he sat down with Fortune, Abrams said he was largely playing word games on his phone, but did have some console favorites.
“I love [Star Wars] Battlefront,” he said. “They’ve done an amazing job with that. I’ve been playing racing games like Forza with our 10 year old. … He’ll tell you that I don’t win – and he’ll be right. And there are some games I’ve played a little more of, like the latest Tomb Raider game, which was a lot of fun.”
Tencent, Bad Robot’s partner in Bad Robot Games, will help any titles get distribution in China. The company has quietly become one of the most influential forces in the video game industry, holding ownership interests in Epic Games (makers of Fortnite), Riot Games (developer of League of Legends), Glu Mobile and Activision-Blizzard.