Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) plans to ship its 3D multiplayer fantasy role-playing game EverQuest for Mac in February 2003.

"Sony is confident of its ability to meet that date, as there is already an alpha version running," explained SOE producer Richard Lawrence.

Sony announced plans to bring EverQuest to Mac OS in July. At that time, SOE vice president of marketing Scott McDaniel said: "Supporting the Mac platform is a logical step towards growing our online community and building a complete, interactive experience for gamers."

"With OS X and Apple's desktop systems there will be an incredible gaming environment that will take full advantage of EverQuest's huge and seamless 3D world." The company introduced Mac support for games at its online entertainment portal, The Station earlier this year.

Lawrence discussed the company's move to Mac: "Many of us here at SOE are Mac users - in fact, several of our company leaders are avid supporters - but until fairly recently we have not been involved in Mac game development.

"The process of getting up to speed on the Mac has been full of surprises. But in general we view the platform as viable for gaming, and internally we have a keen interest in how EverQuest for the Mac performs, so we can gauge future business potential."

The SOE executive discussed Apple's work in making Mac OS X a good gaming platform: "It seems Apple is making great strides in making OS X an easy platform to work with for gaming, and that's very key in our continued interest. If Macintosh is going to compete with the very mature set of tools for gaming development on the Windows/Intel side, it has to start with the OS and Apple."

The signals are good, he added: "That effort must even stretch to occasionally overcompensating when third parties are not fulfilling some particular need. We've seen some examples of that already, which bodes well for the year to come in Mac gaming."

EverQuest has attracted a huge international audience (375,000 active players on PC). It has also attracted major media support: USA Today calls it the "next generation computer role playing game." The US Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences awarded it the title of 2001's best massive multiplayer/persistent world game.