Yesterday marked a major milestone for everyone’s favorite broadband gaming service. Launched back in 2005, Gametap was born out of the concept of doing what Turner Broadcasting has done for other businesses – acquiring rights to libraries of content, then programming that content in new and lucrative ways. Now, with yesterday’s launch, Gametap is adding to that subscription model by offering a rotating selection of free games to play from their web site, as well as simultaneous access to new releases (Lara Croft’s latest). There is now also a direct digital download service where you can download to own games. David Reid, Gametap’s VP of Marketing, sums it up this way:
It’s really hard to explain to someone what 900 of the greatest games of all time in one place means.
My team has been working with Gametap for several months now integrating advertising into both their new and improved web site as well as their new lite and existing deluxe player. It’s been an exciting project – it’s always fun to do work where it involves gaming! And did I mention that there will soon be a Mac client too – said to be by late Summer according to one of the Joystiq articles! Woohoo!
More coverage here:
So the news broke earlier this week that everyone’s favorite broadband gaming site, Turner’s very own GameTap is expanding their offering to include free-to-play games in an ad-supported environment. You can guess that my team has been actively working on this project for a while. It’s pretty exciting. Much like the varying levels of ‘membership’ on services like Xbox Live, GameTap will offer non-paying, non-registered users access to some games, playable from a light-weight version of their ‘grandaddy’ client. General Manager Stu Snyder (who was just promoted yesterday to a new role as executive vice president and chief operating officer of animation, young adults & kids media in addition to his GameTap role) said it this way in the Business Week story:
“With 2 to 3 million uniques per month, we realized we weren’t monetizing that many uniques to our website,” he says. “We kind of looked back and said, ‘gee, we should [offer an ad-supported version].’ Also, our demographic was looking for an easy way to play games without making a huge time commitment or financial commitment. So we figured why not have all options for all gamers?”
Other content becomes available with a free registration, and users can graduate to the full product and 800+ games with a full subscription. We have also been working to support an ad-supported version of the large range of video content previously only available in the full client known as Gametap TV. I think this ad-supported model has some real legs! Coverage of the project has been widespread, from Business Week, Ars Technica, Kotaku, and the San Jose Mercury News.
Not since playing the original Wizardry, the seminal adventure game for the Apple II back in the early 80s have I found an adventure-type game to be so engrossing – The Elder Scrolls Oblivion on the Xbox 360. Seriously, this game has everything – amazing graphics, an intriguing script, and superb gameplay. It’s so open-ended, I’ve been playing for a total of some 60+ hours and haven’t gone beyond 20% game completion. Oh – and Sam loves to watch me riding the horse through the forests! I keep trying to convince Amy that watching the gameplay is at least as good as most of what’s on tv these days, but she’s not buying it, sadly.
I’m playing a sneaky-magic-thieving character, and it’s tons of fun to lurk about, trying to save the land – while making a nice income as well. Also fascinating about this game is the approach of offering downloadable ‘extras’ for the game. After a mistart with a lame piece of horse armor (yawn), I’ve been jazzed about their add-ons for mages (the Wizard’s Tower) and now, just released, the Thieves Den. Obviously for your sneaky types, this add-on offers a Captain Jack-style cave/ghost pirate ship hideaway, and allows you to hire a band of thieves, fences and other experts to support your Dark Brotherhood/Thieves Guild lifestyle.
It’s an interesting model where an already massive game with hundreds of individual missions can sell small add-ons like this for $2 a pop to extend the life and playability of a game just a few weeks after release. It’s likely the shape of things to come where big ‘point’ releases may come around, but the games themselves become more of a structure for future add-ons. It’s certainly all the rage in Korea where some cartoon-esque racing games have huge sales around car customizations, as well as for the burgeoning e-economy of Second Life. Micro-payments are in some areas already changing the nature of gaming. Let’s just hope companies don’t publish cripple-ware, hoping that users will be suckered into buying content that should have shipped with the title in the first place.
The game has gone so far as to spawn a fascinating podcast about the game, the Rough Guide to Cyrodill. Recorded by two amusing Brits, the ‘cast takes users through the nooks and crannies of the game. It was a helpful ‘fix’ last week when I was on a road trip and couldn’t get my daily dose. Sigh. The intervention for myself and poolagah can’t be far off….
Wow – I’ve been so busy the last few days I haven’t had time to dive into the gaming goodness of this year’s E3 event. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits:
- Nintendo’s demos of their
RevolutionWii platform and the innovative ‘nunchuk’ controller. This doohickey includes a speaker, as well as the ability to sense up/down, left/right and pitch/yaw movements. If developers take real advantage of these features, the gameplay could be revolutionary. Or is that Wiilutionary? Demos include this one of an anime-inspired doubles tennis match, and another with the next installment of the Zelda series. Can you say ‘shield smash?’ One amazing tidbit – say you are using a bow and arrow. The speaker on the controller will emit the sounds of the bow being pulled taught and the sound of the arrow leaving the bow. The speakers at the monitor’s soundstage will in turn emit the sound of that arrow thwacking into your target. An interactive soundstage in three dimensions. Sweeet!
- EA shows an amazing demo of their new facial capture technology – Tiger Woods. This puts their current Xbox360 TW game to shame.
- Fable2, Lionhead Studio’s first effort since their acquisition by Microsoft, was unveiled. The teaser trailer shows some great imagery, and suggests a more modern milieu – 16/17th century firearms seem to play a role here. The tagline sums up the promise of the first game where your actions determined how others reacted to you, and in fact your very appearance – ‘Every Choice Leads to a Different Destiny’
- And that other Microsoft-owned game developer rolled out a teaser video for what’s probably the most anticipated new release (other than an actual platform) for the next 18 months – Halo 3. Gates himself showed up to do the honors.
- Microsoft has released a boatload of HD trailers from E3 on Xbox Live Marketplace
- The Xbox 360 will soon have an HD-DVD peripheral (via USB), a wireless racing wheel with force feedback (PGR3, anybody?), a wireless headset and a webcam. Gates indicated that they plan to tie the Xbox Live experience to traditional PCs and mobile devices, vastly increasing the reach and value of the communications peripherals like some of those announced today. Here’s a quote:
“By opening the Xbox Live entertainment network to the entire universe of Windows and mobile gamers, we’re creating unparalleled gameplay opportunities that will drive incredible growth of the online community,” said Gates. “Our vision is to deliver consistent, compelling experiences that make it easy for consumers to jump in and play, from any device at any time. It’s a vision that only Microsoft can deliver.” – Bill Gates via Lost Remote.
- Turner’s own Gametap announced several big initiatives. First is the coming resurrection of Cyan’s ‘Uru Live’, the MMOG version of Myst – which has hung on as a viable environment thanks mostly to some die-hard fans. Now Turner will make this game available to all Gametap subscribers. Gametap has also passed a new milestone of some 500 titles on the platform. And they have engaged the animation team behind ‘Sam & Max’ to resurrect that series on Gametap. As a special bonus, GametapTV is streaming all sorts of live content from E3 – a nice bonus for us Turner employees. I hope to catch Space Ghost with Peter Molyneux of Fable2 fame on Wednesday afternoon.
- Grand Theft Auto will no longer be available first on the Sony platform. Breaking the string of some four titles, the next installment will be available simultaneously on both PS3 and Xbox360. No other specifics, sadly, on gameplay, location etc.