Microsoft taps Exent for digital distribution of PC games

Games-on-demand services now offering full versions of Age of Empires, Rise of Nations, Zoo Tycoon, and more.

Exent Technologies today announced that it has secured worldwide rights to digitally distribute Microsoft Game Studios products over its network of Games-on-Demand services, which includes Comcast Games on Demand, Yahoo! Games, and Atari on Demand.

Exent's Games-on-Demand services charge gamers a monthly subscription fee to rent from a rotating selection of full-version titles. Installments of the Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Dungeon Siege, Mechwarrior, Rise of Nations, and Zoo Tycoon series are included in the deal.

Industry analysts have long held up digital distribution of games as the next big thing, a method of getting games into customers' hands quickly and easily that carries benefits under several business models. Streaming games-on-demand services like Exent's can extend product lifespan by offering subscriptions to an array of back catalog titles, while full download services can bypass developers' concerns and costs of obtaining retail shelf space. The idea is gaining traction in several forms. Beyond the games-on-demand services that Exent specializes in, Valve's Steam service allows for the direct download of new releases like Half-Life 2. Meanwhile, Nintendo will offer a number of retro games--on demand--for its upcoming Revolution console.

While this agreement marks the first time Microsoft PC games will be available through digital distribution worldwide, the company has previous experience in the field with its Xbox Live Arcade service, which lets gamers download simpler games (like Dig-Dug or Bejeweled) directly onto their Xboxes for $10-$15 a game.

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