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Epic signs Unreal series to Midway

Unreal Championship 2 and two more Unreal Tournament games to be handled by the Mortal Kombat publisher.

Midway (soon to be known as Midway Of All People should it continue to sign deals like this one) has announced a multi-year, multi-product agreement with Epic Games to publish the next three Unreal titles everywhere on the planet except Korea. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The three titles in question are Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict (the promising, Xbox-exclusive shooter due out in February 2005), and two future instalments in the Unreal Tournament series on PC and, it says 'ere, next-generation consoles. Midway CEO David Zucker also added that the deal could cover "expansion packs and potential next-generation console releases as well".

The deal is bound to come as a surprise to many, particularly given that former publisher Atari seemed to have a fairly decent strangle on the seven-million-selling first-person shooter series. But in the end both Midway and Epic insist it's a perfect match. Midway gets an instant boost in the PC sector, and as for Epic, it seems that Mark Rein, Tim Sweeney and co. were enticed by Midway's recent improvement in form - with the publisher's handling of titles like The Suffering, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy and Mortal Kombat winning their support. "Midway gets it. They hit right at the heart of games," Rein said in a statement.

As for Atari, the now-former Unreal publisher last night seemed to indicate that it was just as significant in breaking off the deal as Epic, with a spokesperson telling the US press, "we have different views on what should come next for Unreal and we've decided it's time to move on". He added: "Atari and Epic maintain a solid relationship and we expect to continue to generate sales from the 10 Unreal titles in our library, as well as the upcoming Editor's Choice for Unreal Tournament 2004."

Speaking to Eurogamer recently, Epic vice president Mark Rein said the firm was hard at work on a brand new title based on the Unreal 3.0 engine, and wouldn't return to the Unreal franchise itself for some time. "The big game we're making right now is a single-player focused game in a totally new franchise," he said at the time. With that new title due out of the door in early 2006, perhaps the potential lack of Unreal-related content up to that point drove a wedge between Epic and Atari. Or perhaps it was something else altogether. From now on though, Epic is with Midway, and we expect at least two more Unreal Tournaments before that deal concludes.