Loss-making Rage Software signs David Beckham

Rage blames PlayStation2 and Xbox hitches for big increase in losses, and hopes that an exclusive deal with midfield star Beckham will boost sales

UK computer game developer Rage has signed an exclusive deal with England football captain David Beckham that will see the player starring in a series of computer and video games.

Rage announced the three-year agreement on Wednesday as it told investors that it had made a pre-tax loss of nearly £8m in the first half of the financial year, compared to £1.1m the previous year. It blamed the increase on the slow rollout of Sony's PlayStation2 console, and delays in the European launch of Microsoft's Xbox console.

The first games to star David Beckham should go on sale by Christmas 2001, and are expected to be available for several platforms including PlayStation2 and Nintendo's Game Boy. Beckham, who plays for Premiership club Manchester United and is considered one of the world's top footballers, will have creative input into the development of the software.

Paul Finnegan, managing director of Rage, was enthusiastic about the capture of the England star. "David Beckham is without doubt one of the finest footballers in the world today and we are delighted to be developing and publishing David's only officially endorsed range of computer and video games," he said.

Rage was forced to cancel several projects last year. It moved beyond merely developing games when it published its first title, Wild Wild Racing. However, problems with the Sony PlayStation2 -- only 165,000 models were initially available in the UK -- meant that sales of the game were below expectations. The decision of Microsoft to postpone the European rollout of its Xbox console also forced Rage to put some projects on hold.

Rage chairman John Roberts told investors that while these problems would harm the company's revenue stream for the next 12 months, its long-term prospects were good. Rage was founded by Finnegan in 1992 and its first computer game -- Striker -- sold over one million copies.

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