Gaming

Turner aims at game market with new service

TBS prepares new broadband service as more entertainment companies enter game market.

Turner Broadcasting System is entering the game business with its own broadband service, making it the latest entertainment company to tap the growing market.

Turner introduced on Wednesday GameTap, a network that, starting in the fall, will offer subscribers games on demand in addition to original programming. Games will be delivered to PCs via high-speed Internet connections. While pricing hasn't been set, the expected range is $10 to $15 a month.

The move makes TBS, a Time Warner company, the latest entertainment firm to enter the game market, whose competitors include Viacom, Sony and Walt Disney. The $12 billion game industry is increasingly infiltrating the entertainment world as the lines between the two blur, according to Michael Goodman, an analyst at The Yankee Group.

"Games can have a purpose beyond just being a game; they're also a way to promote shows," Goodman said. "More and more, you're seeing developers create video games around programs."

The marketing possibilities are not lost on media executives.

"With GameTap, we are bringing to games what we brought to cable television: compelling, branded environments where beloved properties live on," Andrew Heller, president of domestic distribution for TBS, said in a release.

Turner has licensed almost 1,000 games from 17 publishers for its GameTap service. Upon launch, the service will have 300 games available to subscribers, along with other features, such as coming attractions and behind-the-scenes peeks.

The service will be available only for Windows-based PCs and will require subscribers to download special software. Subscribers can use the service on as many as two computers per household. Similar to cable service, access to the games ends when a subscription is terminated.

Still, while TBS's service will have a unique television approach to it, it may prove difficult to garner a following among the gaming audience, according to Shelley Olhava, gaming analyst for research firm IDC.

"Subscription services are a challenge because gamers are used to owning games versus subscribing for access," said Olhava. "No one else will have done a gaming service in the same way that TBS plans to, with a television programming bent to it."

The service will program a lineup of games, in some cases bringing older titles back to once again entice gamers.