GameTap Launches, Adds More Publishers

Turner Broadcasting System (a Time Warner company) today officially opened the virtual doors to its broadband entertainment network GameTap.

300+ games and growing

Turner has dubbed the network an "all-you-can-play" gaming service; for $14.95 per month, a household can have unlimited access on up to two computers to a wide variety of arcade classics, PC titles and console games, including Atari 2600, Intellivision, Sega Genesis, and even Dreamcast software. GameTap will initially offer about 300 titles. The service also will provide original programming besides games, such as magazine, reality, and lifestyle shows, interviews with gaming icons, celebrity features, and trailers for upcoming video games.

"We've taken GameTap on the road and hosted a few thousand gamers through our experiential marketing programs, and now we're ready to take GameTap to a mainstream audience," commented GameTap General Manager Stuart Snyder. "GameTap puts an entire library worth of games-both current and classic -at your finger tips. The game community, and for that matter the Internet itself, has never seen anything like it."

With today's launch, Turner also announced the addition of seven more publishers including Electronic Arts, Capcom, Take-Two Interactive, First Star Software, Dreamcatcher Interactive, Knowledge Adventure and 3000AD. This brings the current total to 24 publishers. With strong support from EA, Activision, Atari, Eidos, Midway, Namco, Ubisoft, VU Games and more, GameTap is quickly becoming the destination for gamers to get their quick gaming fix.

No Nintendo

There's one fairly obvious publisher missing from the list, however: Nintendo. It would be great to add Nintendo titles from the NES, SNES and N64 days to the growing GameTap vault, but these games are being reserved for Nintendo's "Virtual Console" when the Revolution makes its debut next year.

Even without Nintendo, considering that many MMO players would pay roughly the same amount per month for one title as they would for Turner's service, GameTap's subscription almost seems like a bargain.

"GameTap subscribers will have access to an ever-expanding selection of their favorite games, from the early arcades all the way through console games and PC titles," Synder continued. "Our goal is to create the ultimate gaming network - a one stop shop - for everyone from the casual gamer to gaming experts."

GameTap's offerings are also compatible with traditional mouse & keyboard setups as well as most USB peripherals such as gamepads, so both PC gamers and console die-hards should feel right at home in choosing the control type that suits them or a particular game.

Marketing push

To help spread the word about GameTap, Turner has initiated an extensive marketing campaign, under the tagline "Expand Your Playground". This slogan was created by Massachusetts-based ad agency Mullen "to convey a personality for GameTap that was inviting, fun, democratic and ever-expanding; a brand open to everyone, not just the hard-core gamers."

The GameTap brand itself was developed by Lexicon Branding, which is known for naming products such as the Blackberry, Swiffer, PowerBook and the Pentium chip. The name was picked "because it suggested imagery of a virtual 'tap' that users could turn on to get access to a never-ending stream of great games."

The marketing campaign encompasses print, online and broadcast advertising featured in a number of magazines (not just game mags), websites and TV stations (not limited to Turner networks). Furthermore, GameTap is a strong believer in offering free trials to entice consumers to sign up for their service.

"In research, trial increased interest to subscribe dramatically," said Dan Riess, GameTap head of marketing. "So we need to offer as many ways to help people experience GameTap as possible."

Interestingly, GameTap's market research allowed them to pin down exactly who their target audience would be. They believe the audience is divided among "Thrills" and "Chills", both groups consisting of about 15 million broadband game players. The first group consisted of mainly men between ages 18 and 34 who play for the challenge and competition of gaming. These people were more likely to be console gamers but they also play PC and online titles. They play games 4-5 times a week and showed the highest interest in subscribing to GameTap.

The second group, Chills, was comprised of mostly women (63 percent) who play to relax and "chill out." This group doesn't play as frequently, plays mostly online and is in the 18-49 age range; GameTap had strong appeal in this segment as well. "We needed to find the common ground, so GameTap would feel as accessible to mainstream gamers as it was authentic to more dedicated ones," said Riess.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.