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How Warner and Sony's video game rivalry led to cooperation on DC Universe Online

January 11, 2011 | 10:53 am

DC Universe Online Box Art In early 2005, Sony Online Entertainment's and Warner Bros.' interests in the online gaming business were very far apart.

Warner was preparing to launch the Matrix Online, a multiplayer online gaming world based on its series of hit movies. And it was considering producing a similar game based on the super-heroes and villains from its DC Comics unit.

Sony Online, the online gaming division of the giant electronics parent company, was in advanced negotiations to create a game based on the characters from Marvel Entertainment, DC's chief rival.

By the spring, however, Sony's talks with Marvel had fallen apart, and launch of the Matrix Online was floundering. Eager to find a partner to take over management of the Matrix game, Warner turned to Sony. In the process of talking, the two companies also determined that Sony would be the right company to make a DC online video game.

Meanwhile, Marvel's game license went to Vivendi. Then when Vivendi gave up on the game, Marvel switched to Microsoft Corp. After sinking millions in licensing fees and development costs, Microsoft, too, punted. A Marvel online game is still in production, this time with a publisher called Gazillion Entertainment.

On Tuesday, DC beat its comic book nemesis to the punch. Its game, DC Universe Online, is finally launching after nearly six years in production and more than $50 million in development costs. For more on how it got made, why it took so long and cost so much, see the story in Tuesday's Times.

-- Ben Fritz and Alex Pham

Photo: A copy of the PlayStation 3 version of DC Universe Online from Sony and Warner Bros. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times