Fast Company

The Gaming Table

The scoop on five of the most popular online-gaming sites.

Computer games are big business - accounting for $5.5 billion in revenues last year alone. Measured on that scale, online gaming is still playing for small stakes - with $280 million in revenues estimated for 1998. But it's growing fast. Here's the scoop on five of the most popular online-gaming sites.

site mplayer www.mplayer.com gamestorm www.gamestorm.com battle.net www.battle.net total entertainment network www.ten.net MPG-NET www.mpgn.com
boast "Earth's free multiplayer game service" "Everything else is just practice" No boast necessary: Its Starcraft game is a best-seller "It's entertainment tonite on steroids" "Your multiplayer games network"
scale More than 80 strategy, simulation, sports, and board games More than 20 action, strategy, adventure, and board games Just two games, both from Blizzard Entertainment More than 25 games Nine action, strategy, and board games
stars Quake, Command & Conquer, Diablo Warcraft II, Godzilla, Jack Nicklaus Online Golf Tour Diablo, Starcraft AD&D Dark Sun Online, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake The Kingdom of Drakkar, Empire Builder
strength Mplayer, with more than 1 million players, is one of the most popular sites. It offers a variety of tour options. Our favorite: the tour hosted by Susie Sunshine and her dog, Sprinkles. GameStorm's staff-hosted training sessions make it easy for new players to get in the game. Scheduled events and tournaments attract avid fans. With more than 1 million registered users and with 3,500 new users every day, it's the best place to play Diablo. And it's the only place to play Starcraft. One of the fastest and easiest-to-use gaming pages around. An active schedule of afternoon and evening sessions provides plenty of reasons to visit regularly. MPG-Net offers game manuals and tip files to help players improve their play. Energetic discussion forums help players to share tips, tricks, secrets, and jokes.
slack You need to download Gizmo, the site's proprietary user interface. Despite Gizmo's power, it's no fun to install. If you have a slow modem, it might not be worth your time. Some pages take quite a while to load; some of the games take even longer to play. Skip the sample video clips. They take forever to download - and they don't tell you very much. The games are cool, but there are just two of them. When you get bored with them, you have to go somewhere else. TEN doesn't offer a discussion area for gamers to swap tips or stories. The "Rankings" area is the only place that nods in the direction of a community. Because MPG-Net's games are not available on CD-ROM for stand-alone PC play, this is the only place where you can play them - so the games aren't very well known.
cost "Free" - after you pay a registration fee $9.95 per month (the first month is free) Free with purchase of Blizzard games A flat-rate premium membership costs $19.95 per month Free - but some "premium" games have monthly fees

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