We called Babbage’s customer service department and found out that Shadowbane was “de-listed” from their catalogue at the request of Take Two, which (at the moment) is (still) (officially) Shadowbane’s publisher. When asked if that meant the game was delayed past its projected release date, we were told no, it meant “take it off our catalogue and accept no more orders for it.” When asked if that meant all the rumors swirling around of friction between Wolfpack and Godgames/Take Two were true, they said that they were just customer service people and they didn’t know and please make the hurting stop.

So we called Todd “Warden” Coleman, Shadowbane’s producer and marketing czar. Hey, maybe he’d, you know, tell us what was going on. I know, radical concept. His response was to restate his previous statement on the matter, which was a statement that any change in their publishing status would be followed by a statement, which his previous statement previously referenced.

Don’t speak PR? Let me quote:

It’s not our policy to comment on rumors… if there are any changes in the status of our current publishing deals, we’ll let you know.

So in the absence of any more actual, you know, information, let’s speculate. (I’ve been told we’re good at that.)

It’s no secret that something is going on between Take 2/Godgames and Wolfpack. What that something is is anyone’s guess – it depends on who you’re talking to, what agenda they’re pushing, and probably the phase of the moon factors in somewhere as well. However, generally if relations between publisher and developer (or, in another equally successful profession, “pimp” and “ho”) are good, you don’t see everyone leaking off the record trying to spin how good – or, especially, how not good – they are. There’s trouble in Aerynth. At some point, my guess is, we’ll see a nice polished press release that tells you as much as the one above, with the exception that some time ago there was a parting of the ways and everyone still loves each other and there’s joint custody of the cat.

So. Assume the worse and we wake up tomorrow and find out that someone has to figure out where the cat lives. What does that mean for people who’d actually like to play Shadowbane at some point (and by any measure, there’s quite a few of those)?

Item: Wolfpack already has a very active and involved publishing partner in Swing Entert@inment AG, their European partner and distributor. Not only does Swing take an active interest in Shadowbane’s development, as opposed to Godgames which limits its involvement to printing Shadowbane screenshots in tiny little windows on cheesecake girly calendars, they also are deeply involved in the current beta process – not only are many of the testers German, Swing even owns Wolfpack’s beta server.

Is Swing ready to step up to the plate and assume the massive operating costs and support nightmares a PvP MMOG will pose? I’d imagine they think so. Whether or not they are, who knows. Can’t do much worse than all the others at this point.

Item: If Take Two and Wolfpack parts company and for whatever reason Swing remains a European partner only, there’s suddenly a MMOG out for bidding that’s got over 3 years of development time already invested. Quite a few publishers without an entry in the MMO market may find the lure of jumping to market years sooner irresistable.

Item: Shadowbane’s fan base is the only group of players that makes Horizon’s folks seem positively sedate. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that if Wolfpack announced that they’d need help with bringing the game to market, much as Artifact Entertainment did, someone would volunteer time, resources, money, or all of the above. Hell, all you’d have to do for a lot of these guys is offer them a beta slot and they are SO there.

Item: Before the Godgames publishing deal, which was announced only a year ago, Wolfpack was self-financed. Could they continue to do so? While they certainly wouldn’t want to, one suspects they wouldn’t want to lose their previous investment either, especially this close to the finish line. While providing the network infrastructure and customer support is probably out of reach in such a scenario, keeping development going while leisurely shopping for a new “white knight” is certainly a possibility.

All of this is of course conjecture and of course our discussion link will immediately be swamped by persons defending the honor of Shadowbane that claim we are only out to destroy the innocent dreams and hopes of PvPers everywhere.

What isn’t conjecture? Well, try to pre-order Shadowbane at ebworld.