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EA signs TimeSplitters 3

Worldwide deal, game set for 2005 release.

Leading publisher Electronic Arts is set to publish the third instalment in the popular TimeSplitters franchise, after Nottingham-based Free Radical Design signed a global deal with the US giant.

Details on the game were not revealed in the press statement issued this morning, but it was confirmed that the first person shooter will launch next year. Formats were also not confirmed, but it's likely the game will emerge on all three major console platforms, as did its last incarnation.

Both previous TimeSplitters titles were released via Eidos, and between them sales for the franchise total two million worldwide. Typically, EA has unprecedented skill in maximising sales for its brands, and it will be interesting to see what effect its retail and marketing muscle will have on a franchise that arguably has yet to fulfil its true commercial potential to date.

"Free Radical has proven itself as a world-class studio by delivering consistently beautiful, exciting and incredibly fun games," said Frank Sagnier, Vice-president Electronic Arts Partners in Europe. "We are thrilled to be working with Free Radical and to be adding a new title to our growing catalogue of externally developed games."

Meanwhile, Free Radical chairman Steve Ellis commented: "Choosing EA Partners as our publishing partner represents a big breakthrough for Free Radical. We're already working hard on the next game, and hope that, with the help of EA Partners, we can reach many new players all over the world."

This is the second major British-developed title to be signed by Electronic Arts this year, with an official announcement regarding the signing of Criterion's Burnout 3 also expected any day now.

It is not known exactly why Eidos decided not to continue working with Free Radical on the successful TimeSplitters franchise, but it's thought to be down to the fact that Free Radical owns the TimeSplitters intellectual property rights, Eidos having previously indicated that it is no longer prepared to work with properties which it doesn't own the rights to.

Whether as a result of that policy or not, Eidos hasn't had the best luck with developers of late. In the last six months alone, the firm has parted company with Sports Interactive, Core Design has effectively been disbanded and resurrected as Circle Studio, and now Free Radical has signed up with a rival.