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An On Line Arena For Video Game Grandmasters

Bits & Bytes


Addicts of such video-game systems as Nintendo Co.'s Super NES and Sega Enterprises Ltd.'s Genesis have had a serious problem: finding worthy opponents. That's because the game systems require players to face off in the same room, on the same console and TV set. Until now. Catapult Entertainment Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif., hopes to make it easy for the most avid gamers to find and play each other over the Information Superhighway.

The company is readying a service called XBAND, an on-line computer network that will allow video-game fanatics to compete via telephone. The service requires a special $70 modem add-on that accepts any current game cartridge. The modem contains the software and hardware needed to connect to Catapult's network, and keeps track of a player's stats and skill level in a particular game. Once logged onto XBAND, subscribers will be able to receive electronic-gaming news, send and receive Internet E-mail, or search for other subscribers who are logged onto the system playing, say, Mortal Kombat. The system also comes with parental controls so little Johnny doesn't spend all his time playing Street Fighter with Joe in Seattle. XBAND will be available in five major cities by this Christmas at $7.95 per month.EDITED BY AMY CORTESE

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