Delays plague new multimedia products -- A handful of upcoming CD-ROM releases have been pushed back, from ''The 11th Hour'' to ''Total Distortion''

By Bob Strauss
Updated September 22, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

If ever a CD-ROM title served as its own metaphor, it’s The 11th Hour: The Sequel to the 7th Guest. The much anticipated CD was scheduled for a fall 1994 release by Virgin Interactive, but production delays caused by the developer, Trilobyte, pushed the date to last March and then to August — two deadlines that came and went. Now, as the holiday season approaches, gamers, retailers, and especially the suits at Virgin are checking their watches, nervously hoping The 11th Hour makes it onto shelves before time runs out (it’s now due in November).

As any exasperated buyer knows, 11th Hour isn’t the only major game to suffer serious delays. It isn’t even the deepest in the hole — that honor goes to Pop Rocket’s Total Distortion, a music-video adventure that was supposed to have appeared 21/2 years ago. Pop Rocket is promising Total Distortion for Christmas — but you may want to put a down payment on that snowblower, just in case.

What gives? Trilobyte CEO Graeme Devine says the dilemma facing 11th Hour‘s programmers is similar to the one facing computer buyers: PC technology evolves so rapidly that what was cutting-edge six months ago is commonplace today. And it’s not only software that gets stuck in the pipeline. Two years ago, Sega had all but approved the packaging for its virtual-reality helmet when the product disappeared because of safety concerns. Sega spokes person Lee McEnany says, ”The price to fix them would have been so high it wouldn’t have been a consumer product.” The lesson in this: Don’t count on a product until you can see it, buy it, install it.