Age of Conan developer Funcom has revealed that it intends to allow PC gamers to play with console gamers when the Xbox 360 version is released around this time next year.
Speaking to VideoGamer.com at the launch of one of 2008's most anticipated MMORPGs in Oslo, Norway, product director Jorgen Tharaldsen also threw PS3 owners a life line, saying it wasn't "ruling out" a version for Sony's console.
Tharaldsen revealed that following the release of the PC version of Age of Conan, which will go live on 17 May for gamers who have paid for early access codes, developer Funcom will split up into three sections, one to speak with players and fix problems, one to work on future expansion packs and one to work on the already announced Xbox 360 version. It has, Tharaldsen said, been working on the Xbox 360 version "for a long time".
When asked when the Xbox 360 version would be coming out, Tharaldsen said: "Next year... We're trailing about a year. No longer than a year. But we're pretty much Guinea pigging our way into the Xbox, just like Microsoft is. We are exploring frontiers on how to deal with the consoles and online games."
Tharaldsen said that the developer would like for PC and Xbox 360 players to be able to play together, and that Age of Conan will be "the same essence and the same experience" on Microsoft's console.
"We want them to be able to play with their PC friends if they like to," he said. "It's not a forced thing but we would like that to happen. But obviously the control mechanism, the communication, all this is stuff we are solving on a daily basis. The patching, the install, the footprint, the payment, the servers, the customer service... it's a challenge. But we will get there eventually."
Tharaldsen also refused to rule out a PS3 version at some point in the future. Explaining why Funcom hasn't announced such a version, he said: "When we started development of Conan there was no PS3, there was no online plans for PS3, there was no environment for it. Xbox and Microsoft had a very clear strategy, they had a very clear goal, what they wanted to do, and shared our belief of what you could do with the console. So we'll see I guess. We're not ruling out anything except a Wii version. That would be hard with these graphics and technology. But right now the PC is the focus, then the Xbox and then we'll see what happens. It's hard to say now how this will pan out. We'll know in a few months and then we'll see."
PS3 owning MMORPG fans will be encouraged by his comments. Recently Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley told the Seattle Times that MMOs are "going to be a real strong selling point for the PS3 long term", so Funcom should find interested ears at Sony if it hasn't already.
You can check out the rest of our interview with Jorgen Tharaldsen right here. When you're done there, be sure to check out our Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures game page for some brand new trailers and screens.
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures is due out on PC in Europe on 23 May.