Warhammer offline until fall

EA confirms that long-awaited MMOG based on Games Workshop's brutal fantasy universe will retreat to later this year; collectors edition detailed.

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In November, EA CEO John Riccitiello revealed in a quarterly conference call that Warhammer Online's barbaric Hordes of Chaos had been furloughed until sometime in the publisher's second fiscal quarter, which runs from April to September. Clarifying why the massively multiplayer online role-playing game wouldn't hit its expected March 2008 release, EA Mythic general manager Mark Jacobs told GameSpot, "Our game is going to live and die by two things. One is realm-versus-realm gameplay. The second is overall quality."

Today, EA further demonstrated its commitment to hitting those two benchmarks. As noted in EA Mythic's monthly newsletter, Warhammer Online has been pushed back from EA's second fiscal quarter to a broad "fall" release. Echoing Jacobs' comments from several months ago, the game's latest moratorium is to allow time for further polish and fine-tuning as it gears up for primetime.

"During the most recent phase of beta testing, two things have become clear," Jacobs said today in the game's monthly newsletter. "One was that our key innovations--Public Quests, Tome of Knowledge, and Realm vs. Realm combat--were all coming along extremely well, as was the first stage of our innovative crafting system. The second, that the game would benefit from additional iteration time as well as adding a layer of polish or two. Fortunately, as part of Electronic Arts, we are able to do just that."

Grumlok and Gazbag, ready to shrink/split heads.
Grumlok and Gazbag, ready to shrink/split heads.

It wasn't all completely bad news for fans of Games Workshop's epically brutal Warhammer universe. EA and Mythic also laid out today the MMOG's collectors edition. In tribute to the game's tabletop inspiration, collectors-edition purchasers will receive an exclusive, unpainted pewter miniature--Greenskin warboss Grumlok, mounted by his shaman, Gazbag--as well as an original graphic novel and art book. As for in-game content, the collectors edition will bequeath an experience-point bonus, extra quests, and exclusive character-customization options.

Those who preorder the Warhammer Online Collector's Edition will also gain access to the game's open beta, two in-game items, and early access to the final game. The collectors edition will be limited to 60,000 units, and it retails for $79.99. More information on the product can be found on EA Mythic's official Web site.

EA seems to be taking the advice of Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, who said several weeks ago that a World of Warcraft competitor would require a $500 million investment, minimum. EA Mythic hasn't publicized how much it's poured into the project so far, but in the more than seven years since the game was first announced, the game has run the gamut from canceled to self-published to picked up by a major publisher to overshadowed by said publisher's latest acquisition, all the while receiving any number of intermittent delays.

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