RealTime IT News

RealNetworks Launches Online Gaming Service

Technology bellwethers like Microsoft Corp. and AOL Time Warner have long predicted a future in which shrink-wrapped applications and entertainment is history and Internet delivery is the name of the game. It's the idea propelling Microsoft's development of the .Net initiative and it was the driving force behind America Online's merger with Time Warner. But it was Real Networks Inc. -- which has made a name for itself delivering music over the Internet -- that grabbed the early mover reins Monday.

RealNetworks Inc. Monday moved to formally branch out from its roots as a music delivery service and stepped fully into the realm of online gaming with the beta launch of RealArcade.

The company already had its foot in the gaming door with its Real.com Games Web site. But RealArcade takes the concept a giant step further by creating an all-in-one, free games service that offers consumers the tools to find, acquire, manage and play PC games. The company launched the service Monday with 120 games from more than 40 top developers and publishers.

"RealArcade offers PC gamers an immersive entertainment experience that's like nothing else," said Rob Glaser, founder and chief executive officer of RealNetworks. "Our goal was to make it fun and simple to find, organize and play a mix of games across the widest range of genres. RealArcade's easy interface, rich features, and community environment will earn the 'high score' with consumers."

RealArcade includes a game guide to keep users posted on the hot new games, and also includes indexing features like RealArcade Games and the Games Bazaar -- an open publishing area with top retail game demo downloads as well as independent, self-submitted games by the grassroots developers community.

So, you're wondering, "a newsletter and a database can handle that, what else has it got?" RealArcade gives users the ability to acquire games. It has one-click guaranteed download and automatic installation with system requirements checking. An integrated e-commerce solution enables purchasing and RealArcade keeps a history of those purchases, acting as a virtual CD backup to ensure games are never lost. Once the games are installed, a "scan for games" feature organizes all the games in one place and displays them in a quick launch list.

RealArcade also tackles community creation by offering message boards for sharing strategies and ideas, user reviews and ratings, and chat. It also offers the ability to find opponents or partners for peer-to-peer and server-based multiplayer games. And, a community-wide system allows users to post scores and rank their progress against other players.

"With today's launch, RealNetworks has opened up an exciting new distribution channel for PC games," said Michael Calleja, director of business development, Infogrames. "With digital distribution through RealArcade, consumers get a great shopping experience, a wide selection of titles, and instant digital fulfillment of full version games. RealArcade promises to be an excellent delivery mechanism for the more mainstream games we are launching."