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Real, Comcast team up on games

The companies plan to offer a cobranded online game service to high-speed Internet subscribers as part of the cable giant Comcast's upcoming Web portal.

Comcast and RealNetworks on Wednesday partnered to offer a cobranded online game service to high-speed Internet subscribers, as part of the cable giant's new, upcoming Web portal.

In July, the No. 1 cable operator Comcast will introduce a portal for its roughly 4 million broadband customers comprised of a variety of new online entertainment options, including a downloadable and online game service. Under the deal, streaming media company RealNetworks will host the subscription game service and e-store using its RealOne Arcade software, the Seattle-based company's existing game offering.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The announcement marks RealNetworks' first distribution partnership with a major cable operator and the beginning of what the company hopes to be a new market for expanding its premium services. The company recently announced that it had signed up more than 1 million subscribers for its premium streaming news, music, sports and game offerings. As part of its push to grow paying customers, it recently bought Listen.com, which operates the popular music subscription service Rhapsody. With that acquisition, Real will have in line four of the five top cable operators as distribution partners.

"There's a divergence in the marketplace between broadband operators that want to build their own media portals vs. those who want to outsource it," said Dan Sheeran, RealNetworks' vice president of marketing. "For those that want to build it, we provide the key building blocks."

RealNetworks said that online gaming is one of its key areas for growth, along with music. The RealOne Game Arcade is a downloadable application that hosts more than 130 games that people can either download to their desktop or play from the Web. Consumers can play any game for free for an hour, but the majority of them cost money thereafter. People can also subscribe to the service for about $7 a month. About 15 million people have downloaded the Game Arcade application, with more than 45 million individual games also downloaded. RealNetworks does not disclose its number of game subscribers.

Comcast has not disclosed what it will charge its customers to use a similar monthly subscription service. RealNetworks and Comcast will likely share in the profits of monthly subscribers and game buyers.