Today at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Warner Bros. Interactive announced that it would be partnering with Sega to bring the film-inspired massively multiplayer online role-playing game to the public.
In a carefully worded joint statement, the companies explained the terms of the deal: Sega "will manage distribution" of The Matrix Online, while Warner Bros. "will oversee content development and manage the live game operations." Both companies "will supervise ongoing game development and marketing activities for the game," which is set for a November 2004 release.
"With The Matrix Online, a North American-developed title with a development span of more than four years, both companies are boldly staking a claim in the ever-expanding world of massively multiplayer games," said Hideaki Irie, president and COO of Sega of America. We are pleased to combine Segas seasoned gameplay, game production, and distribution experience with the total vision, execution, and completion of the Matrix Online production, said Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment's senior vice president, Jason Hall.
While nobody would dispute that Sega is one of the best-known and most-experienced publishers in the world, its MMO track record is short. The publisher's last MMORPG was the 2002 GameCube port of its first two classic Dreamcast titles, Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II. Sega did publish Legacy Online, an MMO strategy game, in 2003 for the PC, while its last self-developed MMO PC title was 2000's 10six, another strategy game.
Originally, The Matrix Online was to be published by Ubisoft. However, Ubi and Warner Bros. semi-amicably dissolved their deal late February for undisclosed reasons. Given that the cancellation came three weeks after Ubisoft abruptly axed the pseudo-MMO component of Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, many suspected it was part of a general move by Ubi away from massively multiplayer online gaming.
As today's Matrix Online deal reveals, Sega is hoping it will have better luck jacking into the MMORPG genre. Its booth at E3 is bedecked with posters promoting the game, which is now set for a November 2004 release after nearly four years in development.