Hit The Virtual Beach With The Real Marines

GRANTED, NO COMPUTER GAME can come close to real combat. But MAK Technologies Inc. is working on the next best thing: the first war game designed for both commercial and military use.

The Defense Dept. has granted $70,000 to MAK in Cambridge, Mass., to fund the development of a U.S. Marine Corps amphibious-assault simulation for use as a training program--and a consumer game. It's the first Defense grant awarded for a dual-use video game, and follow-on funding of up to $800,000 is likely if the Marines like what they see, says Lieutenant Colonel Walter Hamm, a Marine Corps training and education-technology officer. The Marines don't expect to begin using the game until 1999, but allowing MAK to sell a commercial version "streamlines the process" by speeding up development, Hamm says. MAK plans to introduce the game by the end of 1998 for about $60.

For MAK, the bonus is a product that "is much more realistic than any other game produced for this genre," says Warren Katz, MAK's chief operating officer. The parties are still negotiating over who will get the profits. But Hamm says that even if the Marines wind up with some royalties, "most of the profit goes to the commercial vendor."

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