Ubisoft and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment today announced their mutual decision to end the co-publishing agreement they set up to cover massively multiplayer title The Matrix Online, leaving WBIE in firm control of the ambitious Monolith-developed MMORPG. However according to statements on both sides the two publishers will continue to work together in the future, and may even have other mutual projects on the go.
"Ubisoft has been a great partner and we look forward to continuing our publishing relationship with them on several other projects," WBIE's recently installed senior veepee Jason Hall commented. "Development of the Matrix Online game is still being handled by Monolith Productions," he added. "We are on schedule for our November release and are moving towards our planned open beta this spring."
Ubisoft echoed this sentiment almost exactly, with Ubi.com MD Gilles Langourieux vowing to continue the company's "strong and positive relationship" with WBIE "now and in the future on other games".
Interestingly though in the absence of the angry legal shenanigans that usually propel these sorts of statements (anyone remember Activision's falling out with Viacom over Star Trek?), nobody has any positive idea why the two companies decided not to continue together on The Matrix Online. When contacted earlier today an Ubisoft spokesperson declined to comment, pointing us to the company's statement instead. Speculation will of course focus on the critical savaging that followed The Matrix Revolutions' cinematic last year, not to mention the damage to the brand caused by Shiny/Atari's rather unfortunate Enter The Matrix, but at the moment we don't even know who initiated the break-up - surely WBIE hasn't been seeing other people behind Ubi's back?
However for those of you worried Ubi's apparent abandonment of the film-inspired massively multiplayer title could be down to an overcrowded market, Langourieux had this to say: "Our commitment to online gaming and MMOs remains strongr than ever as we continue to grow our existing offerings like our worldwide gaming portal and our award-winning multiplayer games on both PC and console platforms." A quick glance at the firm's release schedule should prove he's not kidding - Far Cry, Raven Shield: Athena Sword, EverQuest II and plenty more besides are all due out within the next few months.
Monolith president Samantha Ryan meanwhile has been quick to try and deflect any possible criticism of The Matrix Online that might arise out of this announcement. "Development of the Matrix Online is still in full swing at Monolith," she told GameSpot while we were asleep. "In fact, things are really shaping up nicely, and in the not-too-distant future, PR efforts for the game will ramp up. I just saw a new build and was struck anew at how cool it is to have an MMORPG actually set in a huge city. Neat stuff." Let's hope so.