Marvel Universe Online officially offline

Microsoft Games Studios head Shane Kim confirms the ambitious Cryptic-developed 360-Vista massively multiplayer superhero game "has been discontinued."

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In July 2006, Microsoft and Marvel Entertainment announced they were developing an ambitious project, Marvel Universe Online. The title was the first massively multiplayer online role-playing game designed for cross-play between Xbox 360 and Windows Vista, and the first MMORPG to feature characters from the Marvel Comics universe. As outlined in a GameSpot interview, Marvel Universe Online also marked the first collaboration between Marvel and developer Cryptic Studios after they settled a nasty legal flap over Marvel-esque characters in City of Heroes and City of Villains.

But following the high-profile announcements of 2006, the flow of information about Marvel Universe Online was shut off in 2007. Unconfirmed reports swirled that the project had been quietly canceled, even though official inquiries were greeted by Microsoft's standard refrain, "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation." However, the wall of silence broke at last week's D.I.C.E. Summit, when Microsoft Game Studios head Shane Kim told GameSpot that Marvel Universe Online is permanently offline.

"Microsoft and Marvel have decided to discontinue that project," the executive told GameSpot. "It was a mutual decision." Kim did not go into further detail about the game's cancellation.

The demise of Marvel Universe Online leaves Sony Online Entertainment's even more mystery-shrouded DC Comics PC and PlayStation 3 project as the highest-profile officially sanctioned comic-book massively multiplayer game in development. (City of Heroes and City of Villains, which feature character-created superhero characters, remain online.) It also comes shortly after Marvel ended its agreement with Electronic Arts to codevelop a fighting game. The company still has longstanding agreements with Activision and Sega to develop non-MMOG games based on its iconic characters.

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