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Shockwave surfs into online gaming

Multimedia site cuts the ribbon on a pay-for-play game service, joining America Online and Yahoo in betting that gamers will open their wallets for Web play.

AtomShockwave has launched a new subscription video game service on its Web site.

The online entertainment company hopes the new service, called GameBlast, will convince casual gamers to pay $9.95 a month to play. AtomShockwave already sells games that can be downloaded onto a PC, and more limited demo versions of these titles are available online. With GameBlast, people can play full versions of the games via the Internet.

"We took the most popular games and made them available online as a subscription service," Mika Salmi, CEO of AtomShockwave, said.

The monthly subscription fee is part of a tiered pricing structure. GameBlast will cost $19.95 for three months, $34.95 for six months or $59.95 for a year.

Online gaming has become one of the most popular applications on the Internet. Many Internet companies, including America Online and Yahoo, have launched their own Web-based game channels and now allow people to preview and play popular titles.

Last month, AOL let its broadband subscribers play Electronic Arts' "James Bond 007: NightFire" through its Games channel before the title was released in stores. Rival Yahoo in April launched its own pay-for-play game site, called Yahoo Games All-Star, which costs $7.95 a month, $19.95 for three months or $59.95 for a year.

Streaming-media specialist RealNetworks has also entered the field, with an online gaming component to its RealOne subscription service.

AtomShockwave's Salmi said GameBlast differs from AOL and Yahoo's offerings because it targets another audience. While many of the games available on AOL and Yahoo are popular among younger men, AtomShockwave's demographics are geared more toward women over 30.

Many of the GameBlast titles are puzzle games such as "Mah Jong Solitaire," "Collapse" and "Domino Dementia."