BritSoft developer Argonaut revealed yesterday that it has signed a publishing deal with Vivendi Universal to distribute Malice on Xbox and PlayStation 2. Previously Malice had been showcased by Microsoft and was expected to be published by them exclusively on the Xbox, but now it looks like Sony's console will be getting a slice of the pie as well. According to a statement from the company, "exploiting Argonaut's multi-platform abilities in this way gives Malice a much larger target market and with the marketing and distribution capabilities of Vivendi Universal, we aim to grow the Malice franchise over the coming years". The developer added that "work on transferring the game to PS2 has already commenced", with a release on both consoles expected next year.
This must come as something of a blow to Microsoft, who had until recently been highlighting the game as one of the Xbox's big exclusive AAA titles. It wasn't all bad news for the new über-console though, as Argonaut also revealed yesterday that it has signed a deal with Microsoft to develop another as-yet unannounced game, this time exclusively for the Xbox. This new game will be published as a first party title, suggesting that the Malice split was amicable, while Argonaut report that "a recent submission to [Microsoft] was heralded as setting a new standard of excellence in game development". We can look forward to seeing this new standard of excellence for ourselves next summer, with the game due for completion in June 2002.
Meanwhile the same trading statement included the company's second profits warning of the year. As for French developer Kalisto, who revealed disastrous results earlier in the year, the expected shortfall is likely to be dramatic but can mostly be put down to delays in signing publishing deals for games under production at the company. In this case both Kleaners and Orchid are all still looking for a publisher, while Cash on Delivery was orphaned when Infogrames bought the game's former publisher Hasbro Interactive and is now looking for a new home.
Argonaut founder Jez San told the Financial Times "we felt that in the interest of achieving the best deal for the company it would be preferable not to accelerate these discussions simply to accommodate our year-end". The result is likely to be a sizeable loss for their last financial year (which ended just over a week ago) followed by better than expected results for this year as the publishing deals are finally signed. Of course, the stock market failed to grasp this simple fact, causing the share price to plummet 7% yesterday before bouncing back strongly in early trading this morning as the penny dropped.