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|
A version of this article appeared in the October 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.