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Players team for high-speed games

@Home Network and SegaSoft Networks is announcing plans to provide multiplayer gaming via high-speed cable networks.

As previously reported, @Home Network and SegaSoft Networks will announce plans today to provide multiplayer gaming via high-speed cable networks--providing the fastest online game playing yet, they say.

The deal is another example of @Home's continued expansion, both in adding new features and entering new markets. As reported, the company is targeting international--not just domestic--subscribers for growth. A recent regulatory filing said the company planned to strike an international deal by year's end. @Home last week announced it has 100,000 subscribers.

The agreement with SegaSoft also illustrates the potential of high-speed networks in tapping the consumer markets, as opposed to just business customers. The response time for playing games on these networks, known as "latency," is faster than via the Internet. Not only @Home, but also Time Warner's Road Runner service is trying to tap the mass market as a high-speed Net provider.

Under tomorrow's agreement, SegaSoft's Internet game network becomes the exclusive online provider for @Home. Game servers will be located directly on @Home's network, resulting in latency of 30 to 60 milliseconds, compared to 150 to 400 milliseconds for typical Internet latency, the executive said.

The service is expected to launch this summer. The online gaming is free to @Home users. But for an extra $5.95 per month, players will get to participate in special tournaments, among other benefits. Some 40 games, including Quake II, will be featured. Game playing on the network can accommodate up to 32 players on any one game at any given time, depending on the game.

Later, features such as voice and video can be added to game play.

Earlier this month, @Home said that its first-quarter net loss, excluding a noncash charge, totaled $11.7 million, or 10 cents per share, compared to a loss of $10.9 million or 11 cents per share for the like quarter a year ago. The loss was in line with analysts' estimates.

The company's revenue for the three months ended March 31 rose to $5.77 million, up from $806,000 reported for the like quarter a year ago. Revenues totaled $3.7 million for the three months ended December 31, 1997.