press release:
MMO giant signs deal with Warner Bros to acquire franchises
Following earlier rumours of a deal between Sony Online Entertainment and Warner Bros. Interactive, it's been confirmed that SOE has acquired massively multiplayer online game The Matrix Online.

SOE has also secured licensing rights to develop a DC Comics MMOG for PC and next-generation consoles, featuring classic DC characters such as Batman, Superman Wonder Woman and the Sandman.

"SOE will work closely with Warner Bros. and DC Comics to maintain the authenticity consumers demand from the franchises," said SOE president John Smedley.

"We will also take steps to continue the same high level of service that subscribers have come to expect from The Matrix Online game."

Warner Bros.'s Jason Hall commented: "Our goal is to deliver quality content and consistently advance our key properties within the online games space. We've done just that with The Matrix Online.

"Because of our compelling work in developing and launching that game we can now move it over to the leaders in the MMO space, SOE," he added.

Matrix Online developer Monolith is now rumoured to be stepping away from the MMO genre altogether, preferring to concentrate on single player and small-scale multiplayer titles instead. According to reports, only 26 members of the current Matrix Online team will be retained, with the rest facing redundancy.

The planned DC comics MMO has yet to be titled, but SOE said the game is scheduled for a winter 2007 release.

The move to launch a comic book style MMORPG is not het first obviously, as both Freedom Force and City of Heroes currently offer online multiplayer gameplay as superheroes. Marvel announce that it was developing a game with Vivendi Universal (as part of a 10-year deal with Universal's Vu Games) in September of 2002 that would see release in 2005.

While there's been no official announcement or news of a Marvel/Universal MMORPG, the publisher has been in the news in relation to MMORPG when it sued City of Heroes publisher and producers (Cryptic Studios and NCsoft), claiming that the game maker was allowing and encouraging players to create characters based on copyrighted and trademarked Marvel characters in the game.

While the bulk of that case is still pending, one of Marvel's stated reasons for the action was that by allowing Marvel-based characters to appear in City of Heroes, NCsoft was damaging Marvel's ability to create its own MMORPG, based on its own universe. While NCsoft and Cryptic have vigorously defended their character generation software and pointed to their rules that forbid characters based on third party copyright holders from being used in the game, DC has stayed silent (at least publicly) about the game, and the possiblity of characters based on DC properties being used.

As Marvel has moved, DC may now possibly find itself in a similar position of desiring to "clear the decks" so to speak, and making sure that if any gamers want to experience online "life" as a DCU character, they will have to do it in the official SOE/WB DCU MMORPG.