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Yahoo! Grabs Gamers
Digital distribution and online gameplay drive service
 
Recognizing the value of games in its business model, online portal company Yahoo! is working to stake out even more Internet territory. Dan Hart, who is the senior director of games and entertainment business for Yahoo!, outlined the company's strategy for luring both hardcore and casual gamers to the portal. Hart asserted, "For us, the bigger picture is digital distribution of titles that have been developed for traditional distribution. The idea is to get developers to develop a try-before-you-buy window for gamers."
 
For $4.95, gamers can rent a game for three days and, through a partnership with online retailer Gamestop.com, purchase it at a 10 percent discount, essentially rebating the cost of the rental.
 
But that's just one option, Hart explained. "The second window is when the title has been available at retail for a while. The developer then has the option to roll the title over to subscription." Gamers can rent three games for 30 days for $9.95, five games for $12.95, or 10 games for $14.95. Hart cited Civilization III and Tropico 2 as Yahoo!'s most successful titles to date, but hints that more major deals with large publishers will be announced in the very near future.
 
A third channel caters to casual gamers who enjoy a quick round of checkers or simple arcade-style games. Hart was fairly bullish on this model, citing the numerous popular Java- and Flash-based games that generate 1 billion hits per month. However, he admitted, "While the dollars aren't significant for large publishers, they're large enough for small developers."
 
Still, Hart sees an even bigger role for Yahoo! in game content. He added, "We're increasingly focusing on content around games for all platforms. We're going to provide more games-oriented editorial content."
 
So, as the online models for console platforms evolve, it seems Yahoo! will try to be a player in spite of proprietary online systems from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. But Hart sees Yahoo!'s advantage as being flexible and nimble: "We're technology agnostic, so we're focused on delivering content to users the best way possible; if Valve's Steam were to become the delivery method of choice, we'd be open to that."
 
-By John Marrin
 
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