Hundreds of thousands of fans obsess over them, have their lives revolve around them, and spend endless time and especially money on them. Not comics: the burgeoning field of Massively Multiplayer Online Games, a medium that Marvel Comics announced it will be moving into in a release issued Thursday.
The press release was light on details, but stated Vivendi Universal -- publishers of the Dark Age of Camelot Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying game -- has been granted access to 4,700 Marvel characters for the purposes of online gaming.
The 10 year licensing agreement will bear its first fruit in 2005, when the initial game is released. While the announcement presumably refers to Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games like EverQuest -- wherein players can access and play characters in a fantasy world that exists and goes on whether or not they are online at any given point in time -- the release did not use that exact terminology:
"We believe there are only a few franchises existing today that are compelling enough to be a leader in the massively multi-player games market and Marvel's universe of superheroes is clearly one of them," Ken Cron, Chairman and CEO of Vivendi Universal Games, was quoted as saying in the press release.
"Marvel wanted to make an aggressive move to establish a strong presence in the burgeoning online gaming arena, and this relationship with VU Games puts us right on the ground floor," Marvel COO Bill Jemas said. "Marvel is perfectly suited to massively multi-player gaming as we are a 'universe' unto ourselves. Our fans like to live and breathe their favorite characters and this gives them the opportunity to do that 24 hours a day if they like."
While the current MMORPG leader, EverQuest, has an impressive 400,000+ customers who pay a roughly $13/month fee to play as the heroes and villains of the fantasy world of Norrath, the 2005 Marvel game will not be the first superhero MMORPG on the market: City of Heroes, which is not associated with any published comic book superhero universe, is scheduled for release in the first half of 2003.