Midway getting Unreal

Surprise deal will see the traditionally console-centric company publish one of PC gaming's premier franchises, possibly for next-gen consoles.

In a move that shocked the industry, Midway Games announced it has struck a multigame deal with Unreal developer Epic Games. The multiyear agreement will see Midway publish the next two PC Unreal games, as well as the Xbox-exclusive Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict, due in February 2005. In an analyst conference call today, company president and CEO David Zucker said the deal could cover "expansion packs and potential next-generation console releases as well."

In a statement, Midway was eager to point out that the deal "marks Midway's entrance into the premium PC games sector with a property that has sold more than 7 million units worldwide." Indeed, the Unreal deal marks the first major foray into the PC game sector for the traditionally console-centric company. Only a handful of games from Midway's catalog are for the PC, the majority of which are poorly reviewed ports of its arcade titles. The company has looked to other companies to help publish the PC versions of its titles. Most recently, it copublished the PC version of The Suffering with Encore Software.

With the Unreal deal, Midway suddenly has a showcase PC franchise in its stable, and company president and CEO David Zucker couldn't be happier. "It immediately establishes Midway as a leader in the PC games sector," he said. "We are delighted that Epic chose Midway over other publishers, and we look forward to working closely with the Epic team to carefully manage this valuable franchise."

The "other publisher" Zucker speaks of is Atari, who had published the Unreal franchise for PCs and consoles for more than four years. "Atari and Epic have enjoyed a 10-year relationship, and we're proud to have contributed to the success of the Unreal franchise," said the publisher in a statement. "However, we have different views on what should come next for Unreal, and we've decided it's time to move on." Atari reps said the two companies plan to continue to collaborate to help sell the 10 Unreal titles in Atari's library, including Unreal Tournament 2004.

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