Online co-op, as well as Xbox Live standards like full leaderboard support and voice chat functionality, will be introduced via a free update on September 28. On the same day, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light will arrive on PlayStation Network and Steam.
The baffling omission of the online component appears to have been made at the last minute, with Crystal Dynamics global brand director Karl Stewart telling Joystiq, "We made a decision recently because we were focusing on how we can deliver the best possible experience to the players. If we had launched with online co-op, we wouldn't feel comfortable that it was the best possible experience for the player." Though online co-op had been promoted and promised since the game's announcement, Stewart claims that "nothing underhanded" influenced the decision. "This is our first digital title and we want to make sure we deliver the best possible experience to players."
It's a tough decision: delay the game on Xbox Live Arcade and miss out on Summer of Arcade promotion, or get an imperfect version in front of players first. Either way, it's a disappointing scenario for all parties involved, including Microsoft. You can play Lara Croft on Xbox Live Arcade first -- but not on Xbox Live at first.