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Gamers shut out in Asheron's Call 2 billing mess

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Today's launch of Microsoft's new multiplayer game - Asheron's Call 2 Fallen Kings - in the US and Canada has been mired in controversy after the giant software company admitted that the game is only available to subscribers in nine countries.

Thousands of people around the world currently play Asheron's Call 1, an online role-playing game where players inhabit a 3D fantasy world.

And many of this hardcore group of gamers have pre-ordered copies of the new game from Web sites outside of their own country.

Now, many are up in arms after just 24 hours before the launch of the latest much-anticipated game in North America, the game's producer has admitted that it cocked-up.

Microsoft said yesterday that only people who subscribe to the game with billing addresses in one of the nine selected countries would be able to play the online game.

Which leaves countless gamers in the rest of the world in possession of a game they cannot play online.

In a statement posted yesterday on Asheron's Call Web site Ken Karl, Program Manager for the AC2 Live Team at Microsoft Games Studio wrote: "I can not apologize enough for not announcing this sooner. And to those of you who are in this situation, I would like to personally apologize to you as you are the ones most affected by this. We hope to make announcements soon about additional countries.

Explaining why this happened Mr Karl said: "As lame as it sounds, we simply did not think of it [announcing the restrictions sooner]. We knew about the situation, but we also knew that in the countries that we were officially shipping into, we fully supported them.

"What we did not think of at the time is the "grey" market, or people who would purchase the product from a website since they could not get it locally at the store.

"Once we realized this (a few days ago) we wanted to at least post something early enough so that people could see this and send the product back before it was opened," he said.

However, this apology doesn't seem to have done the trick and devoted gamers are furious as being shut out in this way.

In a statement this afternoon Microsoft confirmed that players in some countries would not be able to subscribe to the service adding that they hoped other countries would come online in the future.

The statement reads: "Microsoft is introducing a new billing mechanism for Asheron's Call 2. This system, which allows Microsoft to bill international customers in local currency will be rolled out in several phases.

The first phase, to be implemented in December, will enable players in UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands to play AC2 on local European servers and will bill in local currency.

"Microsoft is committed to offering Asheron's Call 2 in as many countries as is feasible and is evaluating other markets in which to implement the billing system and sell the game.

"Additional countries and specific timing are to be determined and will be announced when plans solidify. Microsoft has no plans to discontinue support for the original Asheron's Call game," it said. ®

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