gazillion-entertainment posts

Marvel Universe MMO to be free-to-play game; hires Brian Michael Bendis as writer

Gazillion Entertainment has been quiet about the details of its plans for its super hero themed Marvel Universe MMO game since it was first announced over two years ago. That all changed late on Thursday at a press conference that was streamed at the web site.

The main revelation from the press conference was that the game, currently in development at Gazillion's Secret Identity studio, will be a free-to-play game when it launches. This shows more evidence that this business model is becoming more and more mainstream compared to the older monthly subscription model.

It was also announced that Brian Michael Bendis, one of the most prolific writers for Marvel Comics, will be the head writer for the Marvel Universe MMO game. Bendis's credits include writing a number of Marvel's big crossover event mini-series including House of M, Secret Invasion and Siege.

According to the live stream, the game will feature a "grand, epic tour, a reimagining of some of the biggest events in Marvel history. " One big difference between this game and Sony Online's recently launched DC Universe Online is that the Marvel MMO will allow players to play as the mainline Marvel characters. Yep, instead of creating your own character to team up with the Marvel heroes you will play as Captain America, Thor, Iron Man or Spider-Man, among others. Also Dr. Doom will be the main bad guy in the game's story.

The game will be released for the PC but Gazillion is not commenting if the game will be browser-based or not. They are also not commenting on the game's release date yet.

Gazillion Entertainment gets former Cryptic Studios head as new CEO

gazillion entertainmentJust a couple of days after Cryptic Studios CEO John Needham announced he would be leaving the MMO game developer, Gazillion Entertainment announced today that Needham is joining the company as its new CEO. Needham will be working with David Brevik who was named as Gazillion's president just a couple of months ago.

Needham takes over Gazillion at a time where the company has announced that it will be concentrating its efforts on developing free-to-play browser-based MMOs. It sold off its development team for its October 2010 game Lego Universe to the Lego Group just a few weeks ago. It still operates several game development studios including one that's making a Marvel Universe Online MMO title.

[Via email press release]

Lego Group buys out Lego Universe team; remaining NetDevil teams moving to new office [Update]

lego universe netdevil
Big Download just got off the phone with Gazillion Entertainment's PR head who gave us more info about what's happening with one of its MMO game studios, the Denver-based NetDevil. The rep told us that Lego Group, the owners of the Lego toy brand, are now taking over full development responsbilities for Lego Universe, the family friendly MMO that NetDevil developed for the toy company and launched in October 2010.

As a result of this move, Lego Group is buying both the Lego Universe development team and the NetDevil offices that the team currently works in (Financial terms were not disclosed). The other NetDevil employees will be moving to another office somewhere nearby the original offices. The remaining Netdevil team members will continue to develop the browser-based online action-RPG Fortune Online, which was just announced a few weeks ago and is now in closed beta testing. The Gazillion PR rep would not comment on the status of NetDevil's long-in-development space-based MMO Jumpgate Evolution which is currently involved in a lawsuit with Codemasters.

There are layoffs associated with this transition but at the time of this post the Gazillion PR rep did not have specific numbers available although he did state the numbers would be small. The PR rep also sent this quote from Gazillion president David Brevik:

"The transition of members of our team to the LEGO Group allows us to conclude the work-for-hire segment of NetDevil's business and lets us expand our internally-published, free-to-play game businesses based on our own properties and licensed properties. Gazillion is wholly focused on developing, operating, and publishing the next generation of browser-delivered games We're proud of the LEGO Universe game that our team built, and we are certain that it has a bright future."

Update: We have now been told by Gazillion's PR head that less than a quarter of Lego Universe's team members were let go as a result of this move. However he did not have specific numbers. He also told us that about 40 NetDevil team members are currently working on Fortune Online.

Rumor: Mass layoffs at Lego Universe developer NetDevil?

Long time MMO game developer NetDevil may have suffered through mass layoffs this week. Eurogamer reports that Toby Cochran, an animator for the company's Lego Universe game that launched just last October, reports that he lost his position at NetDevil, adding, "From what we've been told a handful of artists will be kept on board and continue working on Lego Universe. But at the moment that will be a very, VERY small team." NetDevil's parent company, Gazillion Entertainment, has yet to confirm news of the layoffs.

Netdevil still has another MMO in the works, the long-in-development space-based game Jumpgate Evolution, which is now dealing with a lawsuit from its publisher, Codemasters, for alledgedly taking too long to complete. More recently Netdevil launched a closed beta for a browser-based action-RPG Fortune Online.

Fortune Online announced; closed beta begins

Gazillion Entertainment is making steps to enter the free-to-play game business. Today the publisher announced and launched the closed beta for Fortune Online, a browser-based free-to-play fantasy action-RPG. The game comes from its Netdevil studio who launched the MMO Lego Universe last year and are still working on the long-in-development title Jumpgate Evolution.

Fortune Online looks like it is very much of a dungeon crawler game in the Diablo mode with the press release stating that players can team up with others online to slay monsters, gather loot and gain experience points. It promises that the game also has "extensive skill trees and awesome item upgrade choices." You can sign up for the closed beta test now at the game's official web site.

John Romero departs Slipgate Ironworks for social networking game studio

id Software founder John Romero has decided to depart the latest game developer company that he helped to form, the San Fransisco-based Slipgate Ironworks. Earlier this week it was revealed that Romero was teaming up with his long time friend and business partner Tom Hall on a new social networking game developer called Loot Drop.

Romero formed Slipgate Ironworks in 2005 and said at the time that it was developing a new but unnamed MMO project. Later it was revealed that the company was part of the many MMO game studios from Gazillion Entertainment. A spokesperson for the company confirmed to Big Download, "John is no longer working with Gazillion. We parted ways late last year, and we wish him nothing but the best in the future."

It's been over five years since Slipgate Ironworks was formed yet the developer has yet to reveal the game project or projects it has been working on for all that time. Gazillion's spokesperson gave us a small update on Slipgate Ironworks, saying, ... "the studio is working on a key project in Gazillion. John's MMO project was changed and shifted out to later in the pipeline, as the company decided to move it to an in-browser platform which is an area of focus for Gazillion's future titles. We have not announced a release date for this title and John was not involved with the new plans."

Gazillion Entertainment makes executive changes; renames a dev studio

The MMO game developer Gazillion Entertainment is making some changes and additions in its executive ranks and also renaming one of its development studios, according to a new press release today. The now formerly named Gargantuan Studios, which is currently making the Marvel Universe super hero MMO game, is now titled Secret Identity.

Gazillion also announced today that David Brevik, formerly the studio director for Secret Identity and the project lead for the Marvel Universe game, has been promoted to Gazillio's new President and COO. Jeff Linde, previously the Senior Development Director of Marvel Universe, has been named the new Studio Head for Secret Identity. Also the company announced it has named Dan Fiden to be its new VP of Publishing. Fiden previously worked as Manager of Playfish San Francisco. Gazillion said he "will be driving the company's focus on digital development and distribution" hinting that the developer is working on web-browser based games.

Codemasters files lawsuit over Jumpgate Evolution delays; Netdevil founder departs

Developer Netdevil has been working on its space-based MMO game Jumpgate Evolution for some time and apparently the wait was too much for the game's publisher Codemasters. Our sister site Massively reports today that Codemasters has filed a lawsuit against Netdevil and its parent company Gazillion Entertainment, charging both with breach of contract as well as other issues.

Court documents from Codemasters
have the publisher claiming that it paid Netdevil $1.4 million to help underwrite the development of Jumpgate Evolution, which in fact is a revamp of Netdevil's first game Jumpgate. Codemasters also claims that Netdevil was to launch Jumpgate Evolution by February 24, 2009. In May 2009 Netdevil announced that the game would in fact be delayed but the developer has been fairly silent on the state of the game's progress since then despite showing a playable version back at E3 2010.

In what may or may not be related news, the game's official forum have announced that Scott Brown, the founder of Netdevil, has left the studio for unnamed reasons. Brown founded the Colorado-based Netdevil back in 1997. The official statement from Gazillion states, "With a talented team at NetDevil in place, the studio is poised for a bright future. We once again thank Scott for his contributions and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Gazillion Entertainment gets $60 million in funding

One of the most extensive MMO game developers just got a new round of funding. Gazillion Entertainment announced today that it raised $60 million from a variety of investors. The press release announcing the funding hints that the money will be used to "enter a key phase of expansion for the company."

So far Gazillion has released just one game, Lego Universe, from its NetDevil studio. NetDevil is still working on its long-in-development space-based MMO Jumpgate Evolution and the company's web site says that there's another unannounced game in the works. Another studio, The Amazing Society, is working on the casual MMO Marvel Super Hero Squad that's due for release in early 2011. Yet another studio, Gargantuan, is working on the large scale Marvel Universe MMO. Finally there's Slipgate Ironworks, the studio headed up by John Romero, which has been working for years on a MMO game that has yet to be announced.

Lego Universe goes gold

The family-friendly themed MMO that's been years in the making is now technically ready to be released. The Lego Group announced that Lego Universe from developer NetDevil has "gone gold" meaning the game is now being replicated onto disks for placement in retail boxes. The game was first announced back in March 2007.

As we reported back in June, the game will have two launch dates. On October 12 Lego Universe will open up for people who pre-ordered the game via ia official Lego stores, the Lego web site and the Legoland theme park. On October 26, the game will be made available for everyone else as the Lego Universe title is released in other retail stores. In the meantime you can still sign up to be a beta tester for the game before it's official release.

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