When Phil Harrison took over as head of Atari he announced that he had plans to take the firm towards the MMO space.
Today it was announced that they bought Cryptic Studios to develop online games for the French company and will keep its 150-odd employees as well as their current projects. In the past Cryptic Studios created the successful City of Heroes and City of Villains which was subsequently bought by NCsoft.
As a result the three current projects, Champions Online, Star Trek Online and a yet unknown game will be released under the Atari banner in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Atari seems to be going through some major restructuring this year. After being on the verge of bankruptcy they acquired the rights for the Ghostbusters game and the remake of Chronicles of Riddick which were orphaned after the Activison Blizzard merger.
They also announced a desire to revive their big licenses like Baldur’s Gate and Dungeons & Dragons.
While you won’t play as Niko Bellic he will make some cameo appearances throughout the add-on. Dan Houser, said that he didn’t want to give the plot away but that Johnny is a very different person and character than Niko and that players will see Liberty City in a very different light.
Meanwhile the screenshots remind me a lot of the FX show Sons of Anarchy (I just watched the last episode which was great by the way) and this can certainly allow for some lovely language and action scenes.
Sam Houser also mentioned that there will be two episodes and that “We hope fans of the game enjoy the new way of experiencing life in Liberty City contained in this first episode.”
So far no price has been given but it’ll be interesting to compare sales of the add-on to those of Street Fighter IV which comes out the same day.