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Next up from Halo makers: An online world

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Bungie's entering the online-world arena.

After ten years of creating and exploring the Halo universe, ace developer Bungie Entertainment is ready to build a new world -- and it's apparently going to be a mighty big one.

The developer has confirmed that its next project will be a massively-multiplayer online action game. While the company is still keeping
most of the details shrouded in secrecy, Bungie's lead network engineer David Aldridge told game makers at the Game Developer Conference that the title would not simply be "[World of Warcraft] in space."

Activision-Blizzard, which just so happens to own World of Warcraft, will publish the new Bungie title, though no release date has been announced whatsoever. There's growing speculation that the company might reveal additional details about the title at E3 this June.

Bungie has hinted previously that it was interested in making a persistent world, but has stopped short of actually saying it was actively doing so. The game will roll out into an increasingly crowded field of online games.

Blizzard's World of Warcraft, of course, is the market leader, with over 12 million subscribers. Electronic Arts, meanwhile, will release Star Wars: The Old Republic, an online effort set in the fabled Lucasfilm universe, later this year. And Trion Worlds' Rift is turning some heads in the space as well. This is on top of old standards like EverQuest and
Ultima Online, which continue to draw loyal audiences.

While there are definite risks with an MMO (the games are among the most expensive to create in the industry), there is certainly the potential for tremendous rewards. Titles that boast player bases of one million usually are quite profitable, and given Bungie's loyal following, its next game is likely to blow past that number quickly.

The Bungie MMO is a part of the growing digital business at Activision. Beyond this and WoW, there have been regular whispers in the industry that the company is working on a Call of Duty persistent world as well. To date, though, the publisher has not commented on those rumors.

So what about Halo? Now that Bungie is officially off the property (Halo: Reach was their final Halo title), its future is up to Microsoft-owned 343 Industries, who are rumored to be working on an HD remake of the very first Halo game.

(Updated: Bungie has issued a statement, via its bungie.net weekly update, that Aldridge's comments were meant as a joke, but were misinterpreted by some.

"In rehearsal Aldridge was convinced that everybody got the joke," the update reads. "It was all in the delivery, he assured us, and he was certain it was clear that he was playfully riffing off of the recent rumors. Unfortunately, most people can't figure David out — they can't process him. And we don't expect them to. You can't process David Aldridge with a normal brain. You'd need tiger blood and Adonis DNA.")

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