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Microsoft Corp. has reached a preliminary agreement to acquire Digital Anvil Inc., a games developer based in Austin, Texas.

Under the terms of the pending acquisition, Microsoft would gain the rights to select Digital Anvil titles, including "FreeLancer," as well as a yet-to-be-announced title currently in development for the Xbox video game system, scheduled for release by Microsoft in fall 2001.

The addition of Digital Anvil comes on the heels of other game acquisitions by Microsoft, including FASA Interactive Technologies Inc., Access Software Inc., and Bungie Software Products Corp.

Following the planned acquisition, Digital Anvil will continue to create titles from its Austin headquarters as part of Microsoft's growing pool of in-house development talent.

In a related announcement, Chris Roberts, founder and CEO of Digital Anvil, said he would be departing the company to pursue other creative endeavors. Roberts will, however, continue to work with Digital Anvil through the completion of "FreeLancer."

Just down the road at WildTangent, management has recently announced the appointment of artist, designer and art director, Paul Steed as producer.

In his new position Steed will create and direct creations of original content showcasing WildTangent's Web Driver, its compression technology and software development kit.

WildTangent games are featured on several major portals including Microsoft's Zone.com, HappyPuppy.com, Z.com, and Eruptor Entertainment's site eruptor.com.

Paul Steed brings nine years of artistic experience in game development spanning four major game companies -- Origin, Iguana Entertainment, Virgin Interactive and most recently id Software.

In addition, Steed is currently working on a book on creating effective, 3D characters for games.