Shacknews - Steve Watts

Cryptic Studios has been acquired by the Chinese MMO maker Perfect World, reports Gamasutra. According to the report, the company paid approximately $50.3 million for the studio, and acquired a 100% equity interest in Cryptic. Atari had been looking to sell Cryptic recently, having only acquired it in 2008.

Star Trek Online, Champions Online

"This strategic acquisition will add attractive game titles to our portfolio, which will help us further penetrate into the U.S. and global online game markets," said Perfect World CEO and chairman Michael Chi. "More importantly, Cryptic Studios' highly reputable development team and its technology platform will further strength our well-established R&D capabilities. We deem this as another noteworthy achievement of our global expansion efforts."

Cryptic is best-known lately for the MMOs Champions Online and Star Trek Online. The studio is continuing development on its next RPG, a D&D-styled game titled Neverwinter.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Atari is divesting its interest in Cryptic Studios, developer of Champions Online and Star Trek Online, looking to sell it, Gamasutra reports. The publisher only acquired Cryptic in December 2008.

"In line with the previously stated strategy of fewer but more profitable releases and further expansion into casual online and mobile games, the Company has determined that external development creates more flexibility in the changing marketplace," Atari explained in an earnings report.

Champions Online and Star Trek Online

Atari will continue to run and support Cryptic's MMORPGs Star Trek Online and Champions Online while it looks to sell the studio, Gamasutra says. Development on Neverwinter, Cryptic's co-op-oriented take on the D&D RPG series, will continue at least for now. Neverwinter was announced in August 2010, then slated to launch on PC in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Cryptic lost $7.5 million in the past fiscal year, though this was down from a $17.9 million loss the year before. The studio boasted that Champions Online's revenues increased by over 1000% after it went free-to-play in January 2011 but evidently this wasn't quite enough.

Cryptic community representative 'WishStone' took to the forums, explaining, "Right now I have no further details other than what has been mentioned elsewhere. Support for Champions Online and Star Trek Online will be continuing as normal, our staff is working hard on their projects... and there are no planned changes to the way any of our games and projects will operate.

When Atari picked up Cryptic only 29 months ago, Atari CEO David Gardener commented that "This is exactly the type of company we wanted to acquire in order to build Atari for the 21st century." Short century.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
The promised free-to-play option for Cryptic's superhero MMORPG Champions Online will launch on January 25, it was revealed today.

Free-to-play users will be able to play for as long as they please without buying the game or subscribing. However, they'll face numerous restrictions and will have to pay if they want to experience certain content. Those who choose to pay the $14.99 monthly 'Gold' subscription fee won't face these limitations. Both groups of players can buy assorted microtransaction goodies, including more bits for character customisations.

Alternatively, if you have $299 kicking around you can buy a lifetime Gold subscription, as the option returned last year--curiously costing $99 more than when first introduced.

The timing of this announcement is doubtless intended to take a little wind out of DC Universe Online's sails, as Sony Online Entertainment's DC Comics universe MMORPG launched today with big-name characters including Batman, Superman and Lex Luthor.

Thanks to Shacker 'Onward, to futility!' for the tip-off and smile-inducing Shackname.

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Shacknews - Xav de Matos
Before the launch of Star Trek Online, Cryptic unveiled a lifetime subscription to its other MMORPG, Champions Online, for a cool $200. Included with the purchase was closed beta access to the Starfleet-endorsed online title, which--presumably--helped entice people to make the jump. Later, the lifetime subscription option disappeared.

Late last week, Crypic reactivated the lifetime subscription option for Champions Online, this time with an asking price of $299. For those of you who loathe maths, that's $99 more.

With the purchase of the lifetime package, users can net a Foxbat action figure--a miniature version of Foxbat to accompany you in-game--new costume sets, eight character slots, access to the VIP room, an exclusive costume piece, "Vanguard" perk and title, and "more."

As a regular Champions Online subscription runs players $14.99 per month, the lifetime subscription is equal to almost two years worth of monthly payments. However, in 2011, Champions Online is set to launch a free-to-play option.

Although the free option is limited, it does give players the ability to fight crime in Millennium City at rock-bottom, recession prices, and guarantees players are not infected with the crippling 'Why can't I afford to eat this year?' virus.

With loyal superheroes willing to shell out $300 for a subscription, it's no wonder Atari's online division did so well in the first-half of the year.

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Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
Cryptic's superhero MMORPG Champions Online is to launch a feature-limited free-to-play option, executive producer Shannon Posniewski has revealed in the latest 'State of the Game' update, though subscriptions will continue to be offered.

Non-subscribing "Silver Players" won't be able to fully customise their heroes with super-powers of their choosing, instead being granted a pre-defined powerset from a chosen "archetype." They'll also have restrictions on inventory, bank and marketplace space as well as in-game messaging

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Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
To celebrate the first anniversary of Cryptic Studios' superhero MMORPG Champions Online, a free trial week begins today for costume aficionados and the fly-curious. It'll kick off at 10am Pacific today then run until 10am Pacific on September 7.

Other festivities include a 20% discount on "nearly everything" in the micro-transaction C-Store and an in-game event promising "special prizes and unique encounters."

However, it's been a bit of a bumpy year for Champions Online. While the MMORPG passed the one million characters mark--note that this is not accounts--in October 2009, its oft-delayed Xbox 360 edition was cancelled. It also suffered the blow of design director and executive producer Bill Roper leaving Cryptic last month.

This week-long free trial is the latest attempt to drum up interest in the MMORPG, with previous efforts including a limited demo and several free weekends.

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