I keep reporting on these guys like some type of corporate shill, but I think it's hard to argue with the monthly value and the service's focus on classic gaming, now taking small steps towards mulitplayer goodness. Really, when my time permits, I simply must give this a try. I'd like to implement on my regular PC and my arcade machine, so hopefully there's a way without me having to choose one system over another (I'd be using only one at a time and there's no way I'd pay twice).
Anyway, here's the press release:
GameTap Adds Multiplayer Competition, Instant Messaging To The Mix
With its next iteration, the largest broadband entertainment network now offers multiplayer game functionality and enhanced community features
ATLANTA â€“ July 19, 2006 â€“ GameTap, the first-of-its-kind broadband entertainment network from Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (TBS, Inc.), is bringing social networking and multiplayer action to its online gaming arena. Unveiled today, the next generation of GameTap includes highly anticipated community features such head-to-head game play and Instant Messaging (IM). Online multiplayer capabilities have been added to a dozen games in GameTapâ€™s roster of 580 games, and new online multiplayer functionality and turn-based games will be added on a regular basis.
â€œGameTap is leading the industry in digital distribution with the most games and video on demand at an affordable price,â€ said Stuart Snyder, GameTapâ€™s General Manager. â€œBeyond the largest games catalog and exclusive new content, weâ€™re looking for our community to help drive whatâ€™s next.â€
In order to foster a robust multi-player gaming community, GameTap will introduce a dozen online simultaneous and turn-play games. With GameTapâ€™s â€œChallenge Games,â€ players can put their skills to the test against others by challenging them to some of the greatest turn-based and head-to-head games. Among the highlights are turn-based hits like Burger Time, Galaga, Zaxxon, and Pac-Man. Initial head-to-head games include such favorites as King of the Monsters, 1941: Counter Attack and Bust-A-Move.
â€œThe only thing more fun than playing video games, is talking trash while youâ€™re playing,â€ said David Reid, vice president of marketing at GameTap. â€œWhether youâ€™re cheering a teammate on or ribbing an opponent, gaming and chatting are a natural pair.â€
Communicate, Compete On GameTap
GameTap users now have multiple ways to communicate with each other from within the GameTap application. A GameTap branded Instant Messaging feature has been integrated into the service that allows users to easily chat with other users within the GameTap network. In addition, GameTap now features a dozen new chat lobbies centered around each of the new online Challenge Games to allow users to freely chat and challenge each other in a group setting. As an added convenience, the AIMÂ® service has also been seamlessly integrated into GameTap to allow existing and new AIMÂ® users to simultaneously access the AIMÂ® network with their AIMÂ® screenname and chat with their AIMÂ® buddies without having to leave GameTap.
To register for GameTap, visit www.gametap.com where you can sign up for the leading broadband gaming network for $9.95 per month and get your first two weeks free.
So even if I want legal retrogaming of genesis, arcade, c64 and other titles on my pc via Gametap I won't be able to since the service is only available in the US.
-= Mark Vergeer - Armchair Arcade editor =-
Why the heck is that? Sounds pretty stupid to me to only offer the service in the US. Credit cards are good wordwide the last time I checked. It just means the service probably won't be around for long, even in the US.
I suspect it has to do with the same reason why Japanese and European games are not sold in the US and need to be regionalized. Licensing issues differ by territory and what may be licensed for one area may not be for another. That is surely the issue here. The service has the right financial backing and the right attitude at a good, value-driven price, so I certainly HOPE it sticks around.
In any case, it would be up to a specific territory or even individual country to come up with their own equivalent service, or for GameTap to create regional services. Frankly, what they're doing in the US is a big enough task at the moment.
It's plain consumer unfriendly if you ask me.
-= Mark Vergeer - Armchair Arcade editor =-
Why don't you guys ask them what's up? I'd like to know, though I suspect Bill's right. But it could simply be a case of, "Duh, we didn't know Europeans would be interested in this" or something. Might as well get the facts.
It's probably better coming from Mark, perhaps even in an official capacity. In any case, isn't that the way it is with iTunes? They need different versions for different countries. Same thing with Xbox Live Arcade and other videogame online things (though we can still play against each other if we have the same software).
It's not the ' we didn't know about Europeans being interested ' it's the liscensing problem in most cases. A lot of stuff is not obtainable in Europe from American webstores. Where vice-versa it often is possible. Unfair trade policies.
I could write them an official letter and ask why Europeans are excluded.
Something like this:
On our website http://www.armchairarcade.com one of my fellow editors pointed out your great website offering a wide range of games for online game play. As a citizen of The Netherlands loving the games on offer - I was horrified when I got a popup stating that your service will only be available in the US. That is a shame as I know for a fact that there is be a market for this type of service very similar to the situation in the US.
Would you be willing to explain why the service is US-only and if it will be possible for Europeans to be able to use the service in the future?
Kind regards, Mark Vergeer
Crazy as it is, territorial problems are also the case with Xbox360. Although M$ is indeed keen to offer a similar service in all territories. Playing online with Americans can be a pretty horrible experience from Europe though. East-coast US to Europe often is quite doable but gaming with people further west in the US often has quite a bit of horrible lag-time. So Bill, an online head to head gaming session with MrCustard, you and me will be very possible - taking into account the 7 to 8 hour time difference ;)
-= Mark Vergeer - Armchair Arcade editor =-
Gametap to me is NOT a good value. There simply aren't enough games available to make it worth the monthly fee. I pay $10 for Rhapsody Music service, but I get access to 2 million songs, most of them part of full albums. That's value. Gametap has what, 500 games total? Add about 10,000 more games and we'll talk.
I don't understand people's drive to "get legal with emulators" anyway. I pay for Rhapsody because it's usually easier than hunting the album down on P2P, bittorrent, or newsgroups. Most of these older games should be in the public domain anyway, and I don't want to pay some stupid company who bought the rights to the game (Infogrames/"Atari") to use them. If I'm not paying the original programmers, I might as well just download it for free and paypal the programmer a buck or two.
500+ FULL games and more added all the time, NEW and old, and it's not a good value at $9.99 a month?! That's a good one. The bottom line is if things like this don't get supported, the "free" ROMs many of us take for granted might not be so free anymore. We need to support legal means of playing stuff until the laws and the way compensation works are changed. That's my opinion anyway.
Ah! Another interesting discussion. Legalities aside, I think we have to ask whose interests are ultimately being served here. If GameTap is somehow able to offer value (to both the gamers and the creators of the software), then it's worth the money. It seems clear that they've managed to get a lot of games offered for a cheap price. True, you could circumvent all that by chasing down illegal ROMs and such, but that's a pain, and I bet that some (if not most) people are willing to pay for the convenience of having a fast and reliable method of getting to these games. As far as I know, no one has been sued for downloading MAME and a Brazillion games to play on his home PC, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did. I suppose the only thing that's kept it going this long is a fairly quick response on the part of the ROM sites to C&Ds from the SPA.
How this benefits the creator of these games is a bit more difficult to see. Like David points out, I doubt that most of the original programmers (or even the original companies) still hold the rights to any of these games. They're probably mostly tied up in giant mega-corporations or conglomerates (i.e., suits) who passed them around like chips on a poker table over the years. In other words, buying a "legal" copy of Defender isn't likely to benefit Jarvis or anyone working at Atari at the time he made the game, except in the fact that Defender is still around and more people are playing it.
On the other hand, it's hard to argue that the "underground" is a better means of preserving the longevity of these games than "legal emulation." It's sad to see so many games that are only available via illegal means. They tend to be difficult to find, and the unscrupulous nature of "warez" sites and the like mean exposing yourself to viruses, spyware, trojans, and all manner of offensive pron ads in your quest. While it'd of course be better if we could change the laws so that it would no longer be illegal to acquire them, that's severely unlikely given our present mode of government. In short, supporting the sort of "cybergangster" paradise of the "warez" scene doesn't seem any better to me than supporting services like GameTap.
Worst case scenario--GameTap and services like it gain power, try their damndest to stamp out the illegal competition, and eventually start jacking up prices as they secure a firmer foothold in the market. I don't see how this situation would benefit anyone but the companies providing the service.
Best case--these services provide a respectable and much-needed preservation service, keeping the legacy of these games alive for future generations. Hopefully they won't get greedy and start trumping up the IP part too much, but will simply exist to provide a sensible alternative.
To put it simply, these games were never intended to be freeware or open source. They were commercial games whose authors knew the code would be proprietary and locked up, and most of them didn't give a damn as long as they got their paycheck. I think we'll ultimately have to keep our fingers crossed that folks like John Carmack manage to exert an influence on the industry to push it towards more openness and sharing.