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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 September, 2004, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Star Trek universe going online
Star Trek video game
Several games have already been released based on Star Trek
Fans of Star Trek will have the chance to explore the final frontier in a multi-player online game based on the hugely popular TV series.

Games firm Perpetual Entertainment has secured the rights to develop the game which will allows thousands of trekkers to immerse themselves in the world of the United Federation of Planets.

The 24th century universe being brought to life by Star Trek Online will launch considerably earlier, in 2007.

It could attract millions of players.

Forget Spock

The game has the potential to be a huge money-spinner, given the millions of Star Trek fans worldwide and the success of other so-called massively multi-player games which create not only a games universe but an online community around it.

Games like Everquest, Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies have hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

Mr Spock, character from Star Trek
Players hoping to climb into Mr Spock's shoes will be disappointed
Analysts DFC Intelligence forecast that the worldwide market for online games will reach $9.8 billion in 2009.

This estimate includes casual online games that are increasingly popular.

Encompassing not only the original TV series but also The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, there should be something for even the most pedantic of fans.

They will have the chance to meet some of their favourite Star Trek characters but anyone hoping to play the game as the ice-cool Mr Spock will be disappointed.

According to a guide on the official Star Trek website, players will not be able to play the role of one of the show's best known characters.

Similarly gamers will not get the chance to follow in the footsteps of Captain Kirk and command the starship Enterprise, although they may get to captain or crew their own lesser-known starship.

Characters will gain skills and rank by completing missions assigned by Starfleet command.

They will get to explore the surface of planets, although it is not clear whether those beaming down first will suffer the same sticky end that was often the fate of crew members in the original series.

Loyal fans

"Players will encounter characters, places and situations from the favourite Star Trek movies and television series, will explore incredible new worlds; and will co-operate with or battle friendly and hostile races throughout the game," said Chris McKibben, president of Perpetual Entertainment.

The game is expected to enter public beta testing in 2006 and go on sale early the following year.

The deal between Perpetual and the owner of Star Trek, Viacom, illustrates the way Hollywood and games firms are working more closely together.

Online gaming is becoming a huge growth area and firms launching such games are increasingly attracting venture capital.

There is a monthly charge of between 2 and 7 and the potential to create a loyal fan base.

Science fiction has proved fertile ground for games developers, although previous Star Trek games have had a mixed record in terms of sales and reviews.

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