Eidos picks up delayed Conan MMORPG, developing console version

British publisher to distribute Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures in the US and Europe; game now pushed to mid-2007--and confirmed for unnamed consoles.

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Since it was released in fall 2004, World of Warcraft has been the subject of many publishers' envy. The massively multiplayer online role-playing game helped the revenue of Vivendi Games, owner of WOW's developer-publisher Blizzard Entertainment, climb 18.6 percent year-on-year during the first quarter of 2006.

Now, Eidos Interactive is the latest publishing giant to jump on the MMORPG bandwagon. The British publisher, which was bought last year by SCi Entertainment, has secured distribution rights to Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures. The deal will have Eidos publish the boxed copy of the game in North America, Europe, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Conan's Norway-based developer, Funcom, will "operate servers and provide customer service for the game and collect and retain subscription revenues."

The deal marks the first time that Eidos has become involved with either an MMORPG or a game based on the Conan character. The fictional barbarian was created by the late author Robert E. Howard in print during the 1930s and played by Arnold Schwarzenegger on film in the 1980s. (The Conan films also costarred Japanese-American character actor Mako, who succumbed to cancer over the weekend.) The franchise has since spawned novels, comic books, and a short-lived television series starring German bodybuilder Ralf Moeller (Gladiator).

Funcom has previous experience in the online role-playing genre, having published Anarchy Online in 2001 and its subsequent expansions. With Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, which GameSpot voted the best MMORPG of E3 2006, the company is taking a more action-oriented approach. The game will begin as a 20-hour single-player game in which gamers will create a specialized character before heading into a sprawling multiplayer online campaign.

Unfortunately, today's announcement also brought news that Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures has been delayed. Previously earmarked with an Q1 2007 release date, the game is now due to hit PCs in "March to May" 2007. It is currently in the beta phase of development, according to Funcom.

However, the Eidos-Funcom deal does have some good news for those unable to buy a PC capable of handling Age of Conan's high-end graphics. The announcement promises that "Funcom and SCi/Eidos will also cooperate to bring the game to the console market." Though no specific platforms were mentioned, unconfirmed reports have indicated an Xbox 360 version is in development.

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