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Sega set to publish The Matrix Online

Yes, this is the mythical "SegaTon" - no, it's not anywhere nearly as interesting as you may have been led to believe.

Monolith's massively multiplayer title The Matrix Online is now to be published worldwide by Sega, the company has announced at E3 - quashing speculation that it would be handled directly by IP holder Warner Bros.

The announcement was made at a special press conference just ahead of the show, and is indeed the much-vaunted major news from Sega at the show - which had been dubbed "SegaTon" by fan sites, and was rumoured to be anything from a return to the hardware business to a new Shenmue title.

The Matrix Online was originally set to be published by Ubisoft, but that deal was ended amicably earlier this year, and it was widely expected that Warner Bros' newly formed Interactive Entertainment division, headed up by former Monolith boss Jason Hall, would enter the publishing business directly by self-publishing the title.

However, the game's autumn release will now be handled by Sega - the latest major third-party publishing deal to be done by the Japanese giant in the west, with previous deals netting the likes of Sports Interactive's Football Manager and Climax' Warhammer Online for the company's portfolio.

The announcement of the deal also included a demonstration of how the game will play - with the combat system stacking up to be more like a game of rock-paper-scissors than a beat 'em up, by the looks of things. Players select a set of different combat moves which are then performed in order against a set of moves determined by their opponent, giving the battle system an element of timing and skill as well as the traditional numbers game of MMORPG combat systems.

Public beta testing of The Matrix Online is due to begin at the start of next month.