Time Warner's Turner to Launch Online Game Network

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Seeking to bring the television programming model to video games, the Turner Broadcasting unit of Time Warner Inc. (TWX.N: Quote, Profile, Research) on Wednesday said it would launch an online "network" that will let subscribers play hundreds of classic video games.
Turner said GameTap would launch later this year with a library of more than 1,000 games from 17 different publishers, including Activision Inc. (ATVI.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and Ubisoft (UBIP.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) .

Turner executives look at GameTap in the same way as they do some of their cable TV networks -- an outlet for older but still popular programming that might not be otherwise available anymore.

"We have a brand new network ... but Turner's in the same business it's always been," Blake Lewin, creator of GameTap and a vice president for product development at Turner, said in a recent interview. "We want to program games as if they were TV shows."

While online distribution of games is nothing new, no one to date has created an online repository of games on the size and scale of GameTap, particularly for older games. In many cases, people have to resort to illegal downloads to get and play the older games they loved as kids but can no longer buy.

Just as Turner's networks largely confine themselves to older programming that has finished its first run, GameTap will not offer games from the current generation of consoles.

Using emulation software, it will let anyone with a PC and a broadband connection play classic games from older consoles like the NES and Genesis, as well as older arcade and PC games.

Lewin said publishers have largely been receptive to the idea, as have the console manufacturers, even though GameTap will essentially replicate their old retail hardware with new, free software.

"There's nothing illegal about our building the code to emulate," he said.

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