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Take-Two signs online-game deal

Take-Two Interactive Software, publisher of the top-selling "Grand Theft Auto 3," taps GameSpy Industries to handle the technical details of adapting its titles for online gaming.

Game publisher Take-Two Interactive Software has tapped GameSpy Industries to handle the technical details of adapting Take-Two's titles for online gaming.

The agreement, announced Monday, covers all of Take-Two's online games for PCs and for Sony's PlayStation 2 console. Take-Two publishes the top-selling "Grand Theft Auto 3."

Los Angeles-based GameSpy is one of a handful of companies looking to profit from the logistical challenges game companies face as they seek to develop online versions of their titles. Such details include back-end services and software that enable smooth player login and authentication.

GameSpy has mainly focused on PC games to date, selling development tools and services that let game publishers easily add online components. The company expects to also grab a chunk of the action in the larger market for console games, however, as console makers bring their devices to the Internet.

Sony recently began selling a network adapter that lets the PlayStation 2 tap into an Internet connection, while Microsoft is set to debut the Xbox Live service for its console in November. Xbox Live will be a Microsoft-managed service, with the software giant handling all billing, infrastructure and service tasks. Sony is leaving it up to games publishers to handle the technical details of offering online play.

GameSpy CEO Mark Surfas said publishers are increasingly deciding to let specialists work out online-gaming details such as anti-piracy features and player login and authentication systems.

"The entire industry has decided that outsourcing online functions is the way to go," Surfas said. "Player matching, authentication--all this stuff is not core to the publishers' business. But it's the kind of stuff customers take for granted that it's going to be there and work perfectly."