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Half-Life 2 sets a date
Developer sets new release date after hackers steal game's source code.
February 3, 2004: 7:35 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) When Gabe Newell, founder of Valve Software, confirmed last October that hackers had wormed their way into the developer's network and stolen the source code to "Half-Life 2," it sent shock waves through the gaming industry. "Half-Life 2," you see, wasn't just a title any gamer worth his or her salt was drooling over, it was the title industry insiders were counting on to help revive the struggling PC gaming business.

As Valve developers gathered their wits, an executive from publisher Vivendi Universal Games told media outlets that the theft would delay the game until April 2004. That date was nothing more than a blind guess, though. Valve, the only company that really had a firm grasp on the impact of the theft, wrapped itself in a cocoon, refusing all questions from the media and not saying a word about when the game would hit shelves until now.

Half-Life 2 is expected to help revive the PC gaming industry.  
Half-Life 2 is expected to help revive the PC gaming industry.

While still shying away from giving a firm date, Doug Lombardi, Valve's director of marketing, told me the company "is currently targeting this summer for the completion of Half-Life 2".

Valve does not plan to reveal any additional information until the time surrounding the E3 trade show, where the game will once again be shown this year. E3 will be held in Los Angeles May 12-14.

"Half-Life 2" wasn't the only game delayed by the source-code theft. Valve had licensed out the game's "Source" graphics engine to developer Troika, which was hard at work building "Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines," a PC role-playing game. That game, initially set to be released this year, had to be delayed to implement the same security fixes needed on HL2. It now has a target release date of Spring 2005, said Trokia co-founder Jason Anderson.

Later today, Valve will also announce Arkane Studios, an independent French developer that created the critically-acclaimed role-playing game "Arx Fatalis," has licensed the engine for a forthcoming title. The game is already in development, but does not have an announced release date.

The summer release date of Half-Life 2 is certain to once again divide gamers. Some will be relieved to finally have a date, however vague, that they can target. Others are likely to howl in outrage that the game has been delayed so far beyond its initial target date. (The game was originally scheduled to hit stores on Sept. 30, 2003.) Some ludicrous conspiracy theorists will likely begin regurgitating the ridiculous story that the source code leak was intentional, so Valve would have an 'excuse' to delay the game.

The new target date could be a heads up to savvy investors, though.

PC game sales were off sharply last year. The NPD Group, which tracks the gaming industry, recently reported 2003 sales came in at $1.2 billion, a 14 percent drop from 2002's figures.

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The graphics in Half-Life 2 are radically more advanced than any PC game on the market. And many gamers are waiting on the release of this game or id Software's "Doom 3" before upgrading their video cards. Both nVidia (NVDA: Research, Estimates) and ATI (ATYT: Research, Estimates), which Valve has named the preferred graphics chip partner of the game, could see share prices begin to climb. Other hardware manufacturers could also see sales increase as the game gets closer.

Vivendi Universal (V: Research, Estimates) and Activision (ATVI: Research, Estimates) (which is publishing "Vampire...") might also see a bump as the ship dates for the games draw near.

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Valve still won't discuss the source code theft, due to the ongoing investigation. That includes commenting on a recent Weblog post from a San Francisco man who claimed the FBI raided his home and seized nine PCs in connection with the investigation. No arrests were made.

It also includes the company's thoughts on the pirate versions of the game that have reportedly shown up on store shelves in Russia. That version is said to be fully playable, though with plot inconsistencies. The hackers who created that version also reportedly translated the game's text into Russian.

Again citing the investigation, Valve won't even discuss the mindset at the development studio these days, but you have to imagine that the company must be on something of an emotional upswing. A new target date is in sight. There appears to be movement in the search to find the thieves who hacked into their company and stole Valve's work. And other developers are still eager to license the game's engine.

It's not an ideal situation, but it's not half-bad.  Top of page

Morris is Director of Content Development for CNN/Money. Click here to send him an email.

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