CARY, N.C. … It was “Game Over” two summers ago for Virtus spinoff Timeline Computer Entertainment. But the demise of the interactive gaming company, which was established in partnership with best-selling author and director Michael Crichton, didn’t mark the end for Mark Baric.

Baric, co-founder of Seer Technologies and a Virtus executive who helped spin out Red Storm Entertainment, Timeline, iRock, NxView Technologies and 3dVillage, has been flying under the radar for 18 months. He has resurfaced to talk about his involvement with two new deals: one with Crichton and gaming behemoth Sega and another with Hollywood director Ron Maxwell. He’s also a board member of wireless startup AirEight, which was founded by a group of Virtus founders, including David Smith.

LocalTechWire caught up with Baric recently to discuss his new ventures, how he wound up wheeling and dealing with Crichton, Maxwell and best-selling author Tom Clancy, and the future of the gaming industry. Here is the first of two parts.

I understand you played a role in putting together a new partnership between Sega and Michael Crichton. Tell me about that collaboration.

I actually made the initial introductions with Sega and Michael Crichton. I approached Sega and talked to them about the opportunity of working with Michael Crichton. They were very excited. Michael, as you know, is probably one of the more creative authors/movie writers of our day. His work spans from “Jurassic Park” to “ER,” with “Twister” and “Disclosure” in between. I made the initial introduction, and then it took us about 18 months to bring the parties together and consummate a deal.

What does the partnership entail?

It’s really unique, because what has happened in the past is that gaming companies have attempted to take movies, books and TV series, and turn them into games. Sometimes they’ve worked, sometimes they haven’t. But what’s happening here is a full collaboration upfront. A property is being created jointly between Michael Crichton and Sega. Ideas are being discussed where that property will play extremely well across a game, a book and potentially a movie.

What are the benefits to launching the game, the book and the movie at the same time?

First of all, we’re not sure we’ll launch all three at once. What we want to do is take advantage of the co-marketing of a property. The closer we can get the launch of the game to the book to a potential movie, all those marketing dollars could gel together and help promote the others.

We’ve seen properties in the past where a typical game marketing budget will be between $1 million and $10 million. A movie will have a marketing budget of $25 million, which is in some cases 25 times that of a game, so if you can bring a movie budget in line with a game budget at the same time with the potential book launch … and all the notoriety Michael Crichton gets when he launches his book … you can leverage all the marketing dollars from the various media. It’s unusual and hasn’t been done before.

You said you made the initial introductions between Crichton and Sega, but what exactly is your involvement beyond bringing the two together?

Bringing the two together, working to ensure that both parties felt comfortable with the other that they could meet the requirements of the deal before it went off to the attorneys, and ongoing efforts to make sure that the property is good. I’m working with the creative people and with Sega to assure that things run smoothly for the next several years while we’re producing the game.

Is your involvement in the deal personal or is it part of Virtus?

It’s a personal involvement. Virtus was not involved with it.

Have you and Crichton formed a new company?

It’s not necessary. There’s myself, Michael Crichton, Michael Backes (an L.A.-based screenwriter) and Sega, and we’re all being treated fairly through the internal agreements we have.

Do you have a financial investment in this partnership?

My time has been quite a bit of a financial investment.

What about dollars?

I have not made a financial investment. That was not necessary. The financial investment will be made by Sega. Sega is going to commit to develop and market the game, and we’re talking about a commitment in excess of $10 million on just the first property. And we hope there are several more that come out of this after that.

But you stand to gain financially from this?

Yes. Michael Backes and I are working with Crichton, and we’ll have a participating interest in the success of the property.

When will the public hear about the title of the game, and when will it debut?

That’s really Sega’s call. Sega will at the right time, working with Michael, determine when it is best to start seeding the market. The game will most likely be released in 2004. Leading up to that Sega will put together a marketing plan and begin putting out teasers as we get closer to the release date.

Tuesday: Mark Baric’s other pending deals