Vivendi Half-Life 2 game release uncertain

After weeks of uncertainty over when the game would be released — compounded by a missed launch date and a hacker attack on the game’s development company — online game retailers have begun showing a post-Thanksgiving ship date.

Yet the game’s publisher, Vivendi Universal Games, referred questions this week to developer Valve Software, and a Valve spokesman said only “nothing yet,” when asked Wednesday if the company had any update on when it would release the title.

Amazon.com Inc. shows the game being released Dec. 1, while EBGames.com says the game will ship on Nov. 27. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Walmart.com says for people who pre-order the game “it should arrive on or just after” Nov. 17. Best Buy Inc.’s BestBuy.com estimates the game arriving between Nov. 3 and Nov. 12.

However, GameStop Corp.’s GameStop.com still shows an April 1, 2004 release, and a spokeswoman for Amazon, which is generally considered to be on top of industry release schedules, said the company was merely guessing at that Dec. 1 date based on comments by the game’s developer, Valve, that it would be out this holiday season.

“Half-Life 2,” the sequel to one of the best-selling video games ever, is considered so important to the industry that its assumed delay into 2004, combined with the delay until next year of the equally-important “Doom III,” has prompted analysts to lower their PC games growth forecasts for this year.

“HL2” is also seen as key to hardware companies like PC graphics chip makers ATI Technologies Inc. and Nvidia Corp., who count on video game players to consistently buy the newest, fastest and most-expensive chips to play intensive games like “HL2.”

The game had been set for a Sept. 30 release; but the week before, Valve said the game would not launch on schedule but would instead be out at some unspecified point this holiday season.

Subsequently, Valve said some of the game’s code was stolen by hackers that infiltrated the company’s e-mail systems. Bits of that code appeared on the Internet, as did what some fans said in online forums were playable portions of the game.

Valve has said only that it is assessing the impact of the theft on the game and its schedule. But a senior executive of Vivendi Universal Games, a unit of France’s Vivendi Universal, said in an interview with a French newspaper earlier this month that the game would not come out until April 2004 because of the stolen code.

A source familiar with Vivendi Universal Games’ operations said at the time, however, that it was unclear when the game would be ready for release and no one was certain of that April forecast.

The original “Half-Life,” released in 1998, is still popular among PC gamers, and a modified version of the game, called “Counter-Strike,” is widely used in gaming competitions.

“Half-Life 2” stars Gordon Freeman, a scientist battling aliens from the planet Xen in a mysterious European locale known only as City 17.

Source: Reuters

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