RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — iEntertainment says it has financing in place and is seeking a publisher for an online role-playing game that it believes has the potential of being a big hit.

The game is called “Civilization’s Dawn”, a nation-building, real-time strategy genre title. It is a so-called MMORPG — massive multiplayer online role playing game.

iEntertainment already hosts popular online games such as Warbirds, Dawn of Aces. Savage Eden and Helbreath.

The company, which launched in 1994 and went public in 1998, has had an up-and-down ride, fighting financial losses in the tough itneractive games environment. But good times may be back if the firm’s founder is right.

iEntertainment is planning to hire as many as 35 developers or more and to expand its online game support capacity in advance of the title, according to J.W. “Wild Bill” Stealey, the chief executive officer of the company.

He said iEntertainment has a letter of intent for funding for the 30-month development period of the game. The funders represent a European financial consortium, and the deal is expected to close in the near future, according to Stealey.

“Civilization’s Dawn will be the ultimate in Nation Building games,” Stealey predicted. “Players can make their own communities, towns, cities, or nations. The players can cooperate with other peoples, compete with other nations, or war with other countries. The game environment will let the player leaders make the world operate in the way they would like to see the World work. Civilization’s Dawn will pay tribute to successful role-playing titles such as Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, and Ultima-Online.

“The Nation Building features of the game will include many of the great building features found in great real time strategy titles such as Civilization, Warcraft and Command and Conquer,” he added
iEntertainment owns a patent for online gaming technology that reduces latency problems. Its network can now support more than 200,000 simultaneous users.

Stealey is now looking for a publisher to distribute the game and get it on store shelves.

“With our new funding in place the right publisher can have access to Civilization’s Dawn retail successes without the traditional up front development expense,” he said. Stealey added that the publisher would have to guarantee “an agreed level of retail success” one year from the release date.

He expects the title to be rolled out in 2006. iEntertainment announced the game at the recent E3 convention in Los Angeles.

iEntertainment’s web sites now host more than 30 games and players from 70 different countries.

IENT stock trades over the counter. Its price was 4 cents on Wednesday. The company announced plans in December to return to the Over the Counter Bulletin Board for stock trades in the second half of this year. iEntertainment also has approval to initiate a 1-for-3 reverse stock split.

The company reverted to private control in April of 2003, citing costs of staying public ($150,000 a year) and what it considered undervalued stock on OTC BB.