GameTap opens spigot

TBS' games-on-demand services launches with more than 300 games and video content; 24 publishers now on board, including EA and Capcom.

After weeks of unrelenting hype, GameTap finally launched today. Bankrolled by Turner Broadcasting System (aka TBS), the self-styled "first-of-its-kind broadband entertainment network" now offers a range of games for download via its Web site, www.gametap.com. Customers are charged a flat rate of $14.95 per month for the service, which allows access to up to two computers per household. To turn the public on to the system, GameTap is offering a free two-week trial to new subscribers.

"We've taken GameTap on the road and hosted a few thousand gamers through our experiential marketing programs, and now we're ready to take GameTap to a mainstream audience," GameTap general manager Stuart Snyder said in a statement. "GameTap puts an entire library worth of games--both current and classic--at your fingertips."

So how big is GameTap's library? The service's Web site lists 299 available games from 24 different publishers. The two-dozen companies include Electronic Arts and Capcom, who were among seven publishers announcing their support today. GameTap's library includes many arcade games, like Centipede, and a few more-modern ones, like Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow. The library also includes ports of classic games for discontinued consoles, including the Sega Dreamcast, Sega Genesis, Atari 2600, and Intellivision.

Although the older games in GameTap's collection aren't very demanding graphically, subscribers will need a fully equipped modern PC to enjoy all the service has to offer. According to the company's system requirements page, users will need a 3D-capable video card with at least 32MB VRAM and DirectX 8.X and OpenGL 1.1 to use GameTap. Users will also need a minimum of 5GB free space on their hard drives to install the proprietary GameTap software.

As one might expect, GameTap's launch has not been completely bug-free. GameSpot editors who downloaded the software had trouble remapping controls to different controllers. This made playing some games--such as Robotron 2084, which requires two joysticks--difficult or impossible. GameTap reps said the company is working to address the issue, which should be remedied shortly.

Besides games, GameTap also offers a range of television-style video programs, including magazine, reality, and lifestyle shows. It also sports game-developer and celebrity interviews, as well as trailers for many titles offered on the service.

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