Tomb Raider delay prompts Eidos warning

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The computer games developer and publisher Eidos yesterday warned that a further delay in releasing the latest version of its Tomb Raider computer game would hit profits.

The European and US launch of the sixth version of the series - called Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness - is expected next week. Since the company's financial year draws to a close on Monday, that means profits for the current year to 30 June will be severely dented. Shares in Eidos dropped 4.5 per cent, or 6.25p, to close at 132.5p.

The Angel of Darkness game, which was originally supposed to reach the shelves in November last year, had already been delayed several times while the company tweaked the software.

The Tomb Raider series, which features the voluptuous Lara Croft - played by Angelina Jolie in the Tomb Raider film - has been the company's highest-profile game and a brand it does not want to take any chances with.

Eidos said yesterday that the computer version of the latest game would launch in the US and in Europe next week, and noted that it was "in the final stages" of approving the game for release on the PlayStation 2 format in Europe. The company said: "As the company's financial year end is 30 June, it is now apparent that while some units may ship within the current financial year, up to 1 million units may ship in July - the first month of the next financial year."

That meant Eidos had "significantly" reduced its expectations for pre-tax profits. Analysts at Deutsche Bank slashed their sales forecast for Eidos for the current year by 12 per cent to £153m and their pre-tax profit forecast by nearly 50 per cent to about £10m.

The game launched in the US on the PlayStation 2 format on 20 June. Initial feedback from retailers and consumers has been positive, Eidos said, adding shipments to date have been "in line" with management's expectations.

Eidos insisted yesterday that the delay in releasing the Angel of Darkness game was not expected to hurt the overall estimated sales of the title.