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Yahoo!, Microsoft Join On Games

Faster than you can say Zap! Pow! Biff! Bang!, the big boys got bigger as Yahoo! Games Thursday announced a new partnership with Microsoft Game Studios.

The deal means inking the popular Xbox developer to contribute new titles to the popular online games destination. With the new relationship, more than 100 titles are available to consumers for play on Yahoo! Games on Demand.

As Internet gaming continues to gain popularity, the signing is the latest foray in a battle between Yahoo! Games and America Online for top spot in the market. While the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo! Games has maintained the top spot in the Nielsen//NetRatings poll for months, earlier this summer AOL announced a new partnership with Electronic Arts , a relationship through which the developer has offered exclusive games to AOL members.

Still, Yahoo! Games executives say the new deal with Microsoft puts them ahead of the pack. "Out relationship with Microsoft Game Studios marks another milestone in Yahoo!'s mission to deliver top-quality PC games to millions of online customers," said Dan Hart, general manager of Yahoo! Games. "This...gives [us] the ability to meet the growing demand for direct rental and streaming play via the Internet."

At Microsoft Game Studios, officials declined to comment on the release, but spokespeople confirmed that 15 new titles will be added to Yahoo! Games as part of the new partnership. Some of these games include: Age of Mythology, combat Fight Simulator 3, Dungeon Siege, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, Freelancer, Rise of Nations, and Zoo Tycoon.

Of these titles, perhaps the most famous is the last Zoo Tycoon, a kid-friendly effort that incorporates other popular games Dinosaur Digs and Marine Mania in a game that enables users to create their own zoos with animals of every kind. According to Pete Gallagher, Editor-in-Chief of gaming magazine gameDAILY, the two flight simulator games are popular as well, bringing large and skilled fan bases into the Yahoo! Games fold.

"The big news about this new partnership [between Yahoo! Games and Microsoft Game Studios] is that Yahoo! will now be able to offer something for every kind of gamer," said Gallagher. "With more than 100 titles, they'll be able to fulfill what most people are looking for in a game."

Gallagher was careful to note that none of these new game titles will be free. At Yahoo! Games on Demand, players sign up for unlimited monthly or quarterly subscription packages that enable them to play all subscription games as frequently as they wish. Yahoo! Games officials did not indicate whether the partnership would affect subscription rates down the road.