Duo pact for comic character rights

SAN DIEGO — Spider-Man and his superhero pals are swinging over to Microsoft.

Tech giant has signed a deal with Marvel Enterprises to create a multiplayer online game that will include the comicbook publisher’s entire stable of more than 5,000 characters.

Microsoft will have the exclusive right to make that type of game, similar to Sony’s successful “Everquest,” based on Marvel characters and has already begun work on a title likely to debut in 2008. Game will be available on Microsoft’s soon-to-launch Xbox 360 console and likely also will work on PCs that use its Windows operating system.

Multiplayer online games are expensive to build and operate, but can be more lucrative than traditional vidgames because players pay a monthly subscription fee.

Deal comes just a month after DC Comics signed a deal with Microsoft competitor Sony to make similar games for its PlayStation 3 and PCs.

Marvel previously had an alliance with Vivendi Universal Games to make multiplayer online games, with plans for a title to be released this year, but that deal fell apart, allowing Marvel to make a new pact with Microsoft.

Plans for the game were revealed Thursday at the Comic-Con Intl. in San Diego, where both Marvel and Microsoft have a significant presence.

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