Warhammer Online retreats to mid-2008

Missed milestone forces MMORPG to march further into the future; EA CEO denies EA Mythic on restructuring chopping block.

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In a conference call following Electronic Arts' second-quarter earnings report, executives revealed that one of its major games has been delayed yet again. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, the tabletop-inspired massively multiplayer online role-playing game, is now expected in the first half of EA's 2009 fiscal year, which begins on April 1, 2008. The game was previously slated for a March 2008 release, and now could come as late as September of that year.

The delay comes just one week after a leaked e-mail from Warhammer Online developer EA Mythic revealed that EA was planning a company-wide restructuring. Today, EA CEO John Riccitiello confirmed that his organization was pondering staff cuts, but emphasized that EA Mythic was not being closed, as had been rumored. In fact, the studio isn't being downsized at all--instead, it's being expanded.

"Frankly, this is a pretty straightforward situation," Riccitiello told analysts during a postreport conference call. "I want to emphasize to the team at Mythic that, no, we are not having you be part of our restructuring. That's not in the plan. We are investing in the growth of that studio, and the Warhammer slip is a simple one. They missed part of a milestone. [EA Mythic general manager] Mark [Jacobs] came forward and said it would affect quality if he held the March date. So we made the decision that, with the big investment we've got behind it and the talent and inspiration of the team, to invest behind quality. We're going to give it a little bit more time, a little bit more work, and we think we'll have a little bit more of a hit on our hands."

Today's delay is just the latest hairpin turn in Warhammer Online's long and convoluted road to release. First announced in 2000 by developer Climax with support from Microsoft, the game was canceled in mid-2004. The following summer Dark Age of Camelot developer Mythic Entertainment scooped up the project, which is based on Games Workshop's tabletop strategy game Warhammer. Almost exactly one year later, Mythic was purchased by EA, renamed EA Mythic, and touted as the publisher's entry into the MMORPG space. However, the game's delay, as well as EA's purchase of BioWare (which is developing its own highly anticipated MMORPG), cast some doubt on the future of Warhammer Online--and EA Mythic itself. More details have been discussed in an interview GameSpot held with EA Mythic general manager Mark Jacobs.

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