[Electronic Arts has hired Steven Spielberg](Origin Systems) to develop three game titles for the game company.

To my knowledge it’s the first time a major studio producer/director has been tagged to create games first, movies second. There have been games made from movies and visa versa but this will be the first time games will be produced before the movie with the intent of creating content worthy of the silver screen.

The deal calls for Spielberg to collaborate closely with EA’s Los Angeles studio to create three new franchise properties, having a firm hand and weighing in on everything from concept and design to characters, story and artistic visualization. He’ll also have first dibs at turning the titles into potential big-screen blockbusters or television series.

Last year, Spielberg offered a hint of where he thinks cinema will go in the 21st century, urging an audience of film students to play more videogames because gaming may one day change the way movies are made, especially since people prefer to stay home than pay a visit to their local cineplex.

To underscore that point, the gaming industry now dwarfs Hollywood studios in terms of revenue. Last year’s domestic movie receipts totaled $9.4 billion, less than the $9.9 billion raked in from the sale of videogame hardware and software.

The tail now wags the dog.

It would be interesting to get Chris Roberts’ take on this news. While working at Origin Systems in the early 1990’s, Roberts converged cinematic themes and first-person gaming into the largely successful Wing Commander series, which paved the way for games to become a growing source of entertainment.