I Entertainment Network has announced plans to bring its Mac-friendly multiplayer online game, War Birds III, to retail.

The company is led by Bill Stealey who founded MicroProse Software, the original publishers of the Sid Meier's Civilization.

War Birds III a combined arms air, land and sea simulation of World War II aerial combat.

The company is finalizing a worldwide distribution deal with a major – and unnamed – games publisher. Though the price hasn't been announced, the game engine is available for free download from the company's Web site. Players enjoy one month's access free, after which a subscription charge of $9.95 is levied. The retail version is expected to ship in March-April, 2002.

Stealey said: "We think we beat everyone with our graphics, our realism, our simulations and our great flying community." The game supports hundreds of players flying simultaneously in a variety of online arenas, with aerial combat and bombing missions.

There are a number of arenas and different terrain-sets available to extend the game, which is available for download. Aircraft skins are customizable, as are gun sights, sounds and gauges.

War Birds III offers free offline practice missions, so players can improve flight skills.