So finally I can blog about this, as it's something Relic's been brewing for a while now. Shanda, the company that coined the term "Come-Stay-Pay" to describe their free to play model, will be delivering Company of Heroes Online.
Obligatory press release quote:
THQ Inc. (NASDAQ:THQI) and Shanda Interactive Entertainment Limited (NASDAQ:SNDA) today announced a co-development and publishing agreement for an online-only version of THQ's critically acclaimed 3D Real-Time Strategy (RTS) PC game Company of Heroes™. Company of Heroes Online™ (working title) is currently being co-developed by THQ studio Relic Entertainment, the creators of Company of Heroes, and Shanda. As part of the agreement, Shanda has obtained the exclusive license to operate Company of Heroes Online in Mainland China, and THQ and Shanda will also share the benefits of the game’s potential release outside that region. Company of Heroes Online is scheduled for release across Mainland China in 2008.
The original Company of Heroes was released to broad critical acclaim in 2006. The game is set in World War II and brings to life the journey of the men of Able Company as they fight across Europe. The RTS hit has won more than 37 awards to date, including six “PC Game of the Year” and 12 “Strategy Game of the Year” awards. In addition, the game is listed in more than 10 “Top 10 Games of 2006” lists. Company of Heroes Online is set to deliver a persistent Company of Heroes experience for online gamers where players will be able to build their character up from private to general through new multiplayer cooperative missions, gameplay modes, and player versus player combat. The teams at Relic Entertainment and Shanda are joining together to create a persistent RTS experience across the expansive battlefields of World War II Europe.
CoH is a fantastic game (93% on Metacritic) and THQ & Relic's partnership with Shanda is a great way to expose it to a lot more people. In mainland China, Shanda receives the exclusive license to operate the game. But in the rest of the world, Relic & THQ are free to operate CoH Online under a revenue sharing agreement with Shanda.
Shanda also recently announced a very similar deal with Tecmo for Dead or Alive Online, a game they aim to release prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. I'm interested to see how they overcome the controller peripheral issue without limiting their market.
In any case, from a Relic perspective the Shanda deal is a great way to get some cutting edge persistent world development experience in the short term.