AOL Gaming is All in The Family

The integration of instant messaging services with just about everything
on the Internet continued today at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. America Online announced it will sync its AIM client
interface with a popular gaming format from sister company Turner
Broadcasting.

The three year deal, which will add the AOL instant messaging and
ICQ instant messaging services to Turner’s new GameTap, will launch this fall. The agreement marks a first-of-its-kind broadband entertainment
network to offer games-on-demand plus original programming via a broadband-connected PC, according to the company.

“The GameTap platform is an ideal way for us to extend the value and
reach of our network, and we look forward to leveraging our expertise in
creating online communities,” Chamath Palihapitiya, vice president and
general manager for AIM and ICQ at America Online, said.

Under the agreement, both AIM and ICQ will be seamlessly integrated into
the GameTap network through a customized version of the AIM client, enabling
players to communicate in real time.

“We are very excited to be working with Turner Broadcasting to provide
gamers everywhere with a new level of fun and interaction,” Palihapitiya
said.

With AOL’s access to the more than 46 million users on its messaging
networks, the move is an obvious upgrade for GameTap. The enhancements will
allow players to “ping and play” both within and outside the Turner
gaming network.

With the popularity of gaming rising, IM services are adding bells and
whistles to the interfaces to retain this ever-fickle user base. For its part,
Turner has licensed nearly 1,000 games from 17 publishers. The service will
launch with 300 games, and then roll out new titles and programming each
week.

“This is an exciting enhancement to the GameTap service, because it will
allow consumers to interact with one another in real time and enrich their
game-play experience,” Jim McCaffrey, executive vice president of operations
and strategy for Turner, said in a statement.

As instant messaging continues to be a hotly contested battleground among rivals AOL (22 million users), Yahoo (18.7 million users) and MSN (13.7 million), it likely will continue pushing
the boundaries of online experiences.

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