An article on The Boston Globe's website reveals retired MLB pitcher Curt Schilling's plans to raise as much as $100 million for his fantasy MMORPG "Copernicus". The goal? Give World of Warcraft some serious competition:
Even with a household name, it’s a major challenge to find backers to buy into his dreams. Right now, he is trying to raise enough money to build a blockbuster game that he hopes will compete head-to-head with the online fantasy gaming industry’s top offering. The company estimates it will take $50 million to more than $100 million to complete the game.
Raising money is “a challenge,’’ Schilling says, “but that’s part of the attraction for me.’’
38 Studios’ goal - the company’s name comes from Schilling’s old uniform number - is as ambitious as Schilling was when he vowed to lead the Red Sox to a championship upon joining the team, even though the team hadn’t won the World Series in more than 80 years. The company has set its sights on building a credible rival to World of Warcraft, the online fantasy game owned by the media conglomerate Vivendi SA. WoW, as it is commonly called, is a massively multiplayer online role playing game with 12 million players, who each pay a monthly fee; those subscription fees generate more than $1 billion in revenue each year.
Schilling’s company has targeted a tentative release date of December 2010 for its game.
I think that's the first release date we've seen, though I wouldn't bank on it this early in development.