Comcast Unlocks Site for Gamers

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Breeding a growing stable of channel-like Web properties, Comcast last week launched GameInvasion.net, a video-game site previously available only to high-speed Internet subscribers.

GameInvasion.net features video-game news, reviews, trailers and other content. The site's advertisers include Intel, RadioShack, The Sharper Image and LucasArts, the video game division of Lucasfilm.

JOINING THE LINEUP

It joins two other recent Comcast Web launches: Fearnet.com, a horror-movie site that lets viewers watch trailers and about a dozen full-length features (paired with a video-on-demand service of the same name), and Ziddio.com, which hosts user-generated content a la YouTube.

All three, developed by the Interactive Media group that Comcast formed last year, are designed to reach an audience beyond the operator's 24 million cable customers. “They're essentially creating broadband channels,” Yankee Group analyst Mike Goodman said.

Coinciding with the GameInvasion launch, Comcast signed a deal with Major League gaming, which runs video-game tournaments, to offer the seven-episode MLG Pro Circuit series on the Internet, as well as on VOD. USA Network is also showing the series this fall on its linear channel. 

Existing content partners for the site include Fox Interactive Media's IGN Entertainment, GameTrailers.com and Comcast's own G4 TV video-game network. The site doesn't sell or rent games, but includes a link to GameFly, a Netflix-like game-rental service.

Goodman characterized GameInvasion and Comcast's other themed Web sites as “both defensive and offensive” maneuvers: Defensive because they're designed to be a bulwark against proliferating Web-based video outlets, but offensive in the sense that the sites represent new revenue streams.

The deal with MLG to deliver a TV series online and on demand may be a taste of bigger, more complex carriage deals to come between MSOs and cable networks. “Programmers will want greater freedom for distributing content,” Goodman said. “There's some potential for some significant horse-trading here.”

When Comcast launched GameInvasion in May, it was available within a “walled garden,” only to subscribers of the operator's 8-Megabit-per-second Internet service. Those subscribers will still receive a free subscription to the IGN Founder's Club, normally $9.95 per month, which provides free game downloads and access to other IGN services.

TAPPING A LARGER AUDIENCE

Jen MacLean, Comcast Interactive Media's general manager of games, said the strategy behind making Game­Invasion available to anyone on the Internet was to tap a large audience for video-game content.

“We're almost seeing a perfect storm for gaming,” she said, pointing to the recent release of Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii game consoles. “This is content we know people are interested in.”

GameInvasion is designed to be “much more video-intensive than other gaming sites out there,” MacLean added, noting that Comcast is aiming the site at “more mature, more sophisticated” gamers. Mature, in this case, means 30-something: The average age of a video-game console owner is 26, according to Yankee Group.

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