Hitachi Enters MMORPG Market
11.21.04 - 2:23 AM

Hitachi, Japan's largest maker of electronics has inked an agreement with South Korean company Hanbit Soft to jointly establish a new company called Hanbit Ubiquitous Entertainment. This new entity will be in charge of publishing Hanbit Soft's two newest MMORPGs Granado Espada and Neo Steam to the Japanese market. Hanbit Ubiquitious Entertainment will have a capitalization of 350 million yen ($3.4 million US), with Hanbit owning a 71.43% stake in the new enterprise and Hitachi a 28.57% stake. Its president will be Hanbit president Yonman Kim. Hitachi will be able to bring its extensive know-how regarding server, storage and network technology into the joint venture. Hanbit has a lot of experience in the field of online games, as the company has been the exclusive publisher of Blizzard Entertainment's popular PC titles Starcraft and Warcraft in South Korea. While the day-to-day operations at Hanbit Ubiquitous Entertainment will be run by Japanese employees, IMC Games CEO Hakkyu Kim, best known as founder of Gravity and mastermind of Ragnarok Online will serve as its director. After leaving Gravity he founded IMC Games, which is currently developing Granado Espada.

Granado Espada will take players to a new continent during the period of colonization in the 17th and 18th century. Players will take the role of European settlers arriving in the new world. There they will not only have to take on the land's native inhabitants, but also rival states. A key feature of Granado Espada will be its player vs player battles. Instead of one character, the game will allow one user to control teams of three characters. If a character's health bar reaches zero, it will be impossibe to revive him for a certain amount of time. Furthermore, users will be able to trade their characters, without having to trade accounts. Granado Espada is scheduled to enter its beta testing phase sometime during the second quarter 2005.

Hanbit Soft's second MMORPG is titled Neo Steam and currently in development at Studio Mars, makers of the online-based tank battle shooting game Fortress 2. The game will let players choose to join one of three rival states: One believing in technology, a second one in nature and another one in mysticism. Hence the game will also support large-scale player vs player battles. When creating their own character, players can choose between four different races: pom, human, elf and luife. Described as a mix between a fairy tale and a steam punk story, the game's world will feature steam-powered robots and subways. System-wise, Studio Mars is implementing private dungeons, pet, production and collection systems as well as siege battles. The game's beta testing phase will commence sometime during next year's third quarter.

Granado Espada and Neo Steam have to yet to receive official release dates.

Chris Winkler