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Ultima Online Celebrates Five-Year Anniversary

by Thomas on Sept. 18, 2002 @ 4:59 p.m. PDT

ORIGIN, an Electronic Arts development studio, today announced the five-year anniversary of Ultima Online (UO), marking the event with discounts of the latest version of UO and by unveiling a new U.S. shard, an area within the game, where players can get in on the ground floor to begin a brand new adventure. In addition, ORIGIN is launching a retrospective five-year anniversary Web site that will feature original UO art and special moments shared by UO players worldwide. Plus, the anniversary will signal the launch of an in-game presentation of the five-year veteran rewards, which delivers to players collectible items in recognition of their length of citizenship in the game.

Launched in 1997, UO was a pioneer in the world of online gaming and defined the category of massively multiplayer Internet-based entertainment and is still recognized as the most immersive of any online world. Ultima Online currently has 225,000 subscribers and is played in more than 130 countries located in every time zone. Over the last five years, UO has been at the center of the real world meeting the virtual one. For example, in 1999, two UO accounts sold for $3,000 each on Ebay, marking the first game to have a virtual property sale on the popular online auction site. In addition, several real-life couples have met and fallen in love playing UO worlds apart from each other. A few of these long distance romances even blossomed into marriage.

UO is also known for introducing one of the first virtual economies, which was originally a subject of research by college professors. In addition, UO is the first and only online game to introduce customized personal housing that allows players to call their virtual world home. Today, UO stands as the longest running and the most successful online subscription-based game in the history of the interactive entertainment industry, and the game continues to grow.

"It is truly amazing to pause and reflect on the evolution and success of the UO franchise over the past five years," said Ben Noel, vice president and chief operating officer at ORIGIN. "The game has been a journey of evangelism, dedication and exhilaration. The commitment of the development team in tandem with the enthusiasm of the players has taken this game series to new heights year after year and has allowed UO to become even more popular today than it was in 1997, when its revolutionary concept turned the industry on its ear. We're looking forward to the next five years."

In celebration of five years of excellence, ORIGIN is launching a special UO retail promotion. From September 20-30, 2002, fans will be able to buy the latest installment of the game, Ultima Online Lord Blackthorn's Revenge, at a 50 percent discount. Participating retailers include Electronics Boutique, GameStop and Amazon.com.

Additionally, ORIGIN is debuting a new U.S. shard for the first time in four years. The shard, called Lake Austin, will open on September 20, 2002. Access to the new shard will initially be limited to new accounts activated between September 20th, 2002 and October 20th, 2002. After that, the shard will be available to all UO players. The most exciting aspect of the new shard is that it will offer players nearly 10,000 houses -- a feature unique to Ultima Online. These new housing options will significantly add to the fun factor of the game.

The next version of UO, Ultima Online: Age of Shadows(TM), is due out in February 2003 and will allow players to design and build their own houses. Additionally, the game will introduce two new professions and an exciting new realm to explore and settle.

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