Last July at Electronic Arts' summer showcase, Valve Software CEO Gabe Newell made a surprise appearance to announce that Half-Life 2 was coming to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Both versions of the game, tentatively titled Half-Life 2: Episode Two, were slated to go on sale in time for the 2006 holiday season, when the stand-alone PC expansion of the same name would also launch.
While the revelation was not particularly surprising--Newell had issued prior statements saying Valve was experimenting with the 360--the presentation did include a few stunners. Out of nowhere, a revamped version of the long-thought-dead Team Fortress 2 appeared, and a trailer for the new dimension-hopping game called Portal left the audience yearning for more.
Luckily, EA and Valve announced Team Fortress 2, Portal, and Half-Life 2: Episode One and Two would all be bundled together with original game with the 360 and PS3 releases. The stand-alone PC expansion would also have the two new games as a bonus. However, just over a month later, word came that all versions of Episode Two--including the stand-alone PC expansion--were delayed until early 2007. Then in November, reports emerged that the game wouldn't arrive on store shelves until summer.
In both cases, the delays were revealed unofficially by Valve's director of marketing Doug Lombardi to the European press. However, today came official word of Half-Life 2: Episode Two's release window from Electronic Arts. And to the surprise of virtually no one, the game has been pushed back yet again, as all three versions of the game now bear a "fall 2007" release date.
The games' new date means that there's a good chance the 2007 holiday season will look a lot like the 2004 holiday season, which saw the original Half-Life 2 compete with the latest entries in the Halo, Grand Theft Auto, and Metal Gear Solid series. If those franchises stick to their traditional October and November time slots, it would prove another pocket-book-crushing year for gamers.
EA and Valve also announced the final titles for the games formerly known as Half-Life 2: Episode 2, which the publisher will release in two "product configurations." First is the Orange Box, which will include the original Half-Life 2, Episodes One and Two, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. The Orange Box will be released for the PC, 360, and PS3, but EA confirmed to GameSpot that it will be the only Half-Life 2 product offered for the two consoles at retail.
Besides the Orange Box, PC gamers will also get the Black Box, which will include Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. It, too, will be available this fall. Neither boxed set has "Half-Life 2" in their official title, as they are "game collections," according to EA. "The Black Box and The Orange Box represent a new approach to publishing multiple products on multiple platforms," Newell said in a statement.
In other Valve-related game-collection news, Half-Life 2: Platinum "has been tabled for now," according to Lombardi. The retail boxed set, which was to bundle Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Episode One, Counter-Strike: Source, and Day of Defeat: Source, was set to ship this month.