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Online gaming strikes deals

The Jupiter Communications Online Games '97 show brings together the gaming industry as well as Hollywood types for deals, deals, deals.

Let the games begin.

Jupiter Communications' Online Games '97 in Los Angeles today is bringing together Tinsel Town hot shots and online players--which could result in a new breed of animated, content-rich arcade-type games on the Net as well as new revenue models for game sites.

Executives from E! Entertainment Television, Columbia TriStar Interactive, DreamWorks, Paramount Digital Entertainment, and Walt Disney, for example, are there mixing with online gaming producers to strike deals. The conference is also the backdrop for a slew of partnership announcements between the gaming companies themselves.

MPath's gaming site Mplayer unveiled a deal with Time Warner's CNN/SI to build a sports area that includes multiplayer games, online tournaments, and instantaneous news and statistics about professional sports teams.

"As Mplayer looks to launch its game content to the Internet masses, we believe competitive online sports gaming will explode in popularity and bring enormous numbers of customers, advertisers, and event title sponsors to Mplayer, while giving CNN/SI users even more hit features," said Tom Garland, vice president of network programming for Mplayer.

Sun Microsystems, Intel, NVIDIA Corporation, and Andrea Electronics are now sponsoring MPath's new action, sports, classics, simulation, and strategy channels, as well as a Game Arcade for accessing Java-enabled games.

The gaming industry--not including the interactive gambling segment--have found masses on the Web, but not without obstacles. The growing competitive market is still testing out pricing schemes and constantly trying to improve technology to eliminate lag-time in multiplayer games, for example.

According to an April report by Forrester Research, online game revenues will reach only about $540 million by 1999--which isn?t much, analysts said. However, technological advances used by the sites, such as chat, could fuel the industry's earnings to more than $1.6 billion by 2001, Forrester said. Jupiter puts the estimate at $1 billion in annual revenue by the year 2000.

At one time, MPath charged for its service, and has since switched to an advertising-supported model with free play. Others, including the online services America Online and Microsoft Network, charge for some of their games.

Designing compelling, challenging contests is an ongoing endeavor, even for seasoned creators such as SegaSoft, which has jumped online with

The service has garnered 100,000 members since its full-scale commercial launch in September 1997. A Perimeter membership is free and includes access to all games. To play in tournaments, Net users have to buy a Premium membership, which costs up to $49.99 per year.

Today at the Jupiter show, Kesmai Corporation launched GameStorm, a one-stop shop containing most of the major online gaming vendors. Unlimited play costs $9.95 per month and includes more than 50 titles from Engage, GameSpot, and SegaSoft's