Startup banking on Penny Arcade game

Newly formed Hothead Games announces a title based on the popular Web comic is in development.

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The story behind Penny Arcade is certainly a compelling one. It started in 1998 as a game-focused Web comic strip created by writer Jerry Holkins and artist Mike Krahulik. The following year, the pair launched their own site, www.penny-arcade.com, around the comic and their own commentaries. Since then, the site has become a popular online destination, as well as a source of numerous items celebrating game culture and promoting the comic. In November 2003, Penny Arcade's founders announced they were organizing Child's Play, a charity dedicated to donating games, toys, and money to hospitalized children. In 2005, Holkins and Krahulik famously locked horns with antigame advocate Jack Thompson.

As it turns out, though, drawing comics, helping kids, and irking activists was just the tip of the irreverent iceberg. In 2004, Krahulik and Holkins announced they would stage the first Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), a two-day game event in Bellevue, Washington, with major publisher support and just under 3,500 attendees. In 2005, PAX attendance grew to over 9,500 people, and Penny Arcade business development head Robert Khoo told GameSpot that this year's attendance would top 17,000. The event has gotten so big, in fact, it has been pegged a possible successor to the Electronic Entertainment Expo as North America's top game event.

Given Penny Arcade's success and its enduring popularity among gamers, it was only a matter of time until it became a game itself. As it turns out, that time is now. As PAX 2006 kicked off today, start-up studio Hothead Games announced that is working on a game that will feature the adventures of Holkins and Krahulik's comic alter egos, Tycho Brahe and Jonathan "Gabe" Gabriel.

The deal gives Hothead, which was only formed this past March, exclusive rights to make games based on Penny Arcade. The Vancouver, Canada-based shop plans a series of episodic games following Tycho and Gabe that will come out several times a year.

The initial title, Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, will be a "comic adventure game." Though it did not give a specific date, Hothead said the game will debut via digital distribution for the PC--as well as the Mac OS X and Linux operating systems. The studio also said that those editions would be "followed by a version for next-generation consoles," but did not name a specific platform.

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