New On-demand Video Game Service Gametap.com Pursues the Nostagia Market

Last October, Turner Broadcasting quietly launched Gametap.com: a broadband-only on demand gaming website which promises “hundreds of the greatest arcade, console and PC games of all time” for a monthly $14.95 fee.

While the idea may be ahead of its time and the interface nearly flawless, the key element here is content and sadly, that’s the sole area where the service is lacking. While the front page of the site promises games in the hundreds, after downloading and installing (you can sign up for a 2 week trial, but still need a credit card) you’ll likely spend more time being repeatedly disappointed about the games that aren’t here than delighted at those that are.

To be fair, the service frequently updates their game list, but in nearly five months, the number has risen slowly from 212 at lauch, to roughly 350 today, still a far cry from the over 1000 Turner claims to have licensed. The collection has more holes than gems, and a long way to go before it can begin to satisfy the serious video game connoisseur.

But numbers aren’t everything. A service which provided just a handful of the best games from all the major consoles of the past, along with a comprehensive collection of arcade games, topped off with some of the best PC titles of the last 5 years would be well worth the price.

Unfortunately again, this is largely not the case, at least not yet. Most importantly, there is not one Nintendo game in this bunch, assumedly because Nintendo is planning a similar service next year with the launch of its next-generation game console, the Revolution.

GameTap attempts to make up for this, by including roughly 70 games from the various Sega systems, including several Sonic The Hedgehog titles, but again fails, due to a lack of many of the best Sega Genesis games such as Earthworm Jim, Jurassic Park, or the Spider Man game Maximum Carnage.

While the other games available do nicely cover the early days of the arcade, with titles like Joust, Pac Man, Asteroids and Bubble Bobble, complemented with many of the best Atari 2600 titles such as Yar’s Revenge, and Pitfall, these games sadly now are not likely to hold most people’s attention for very long.

Launching the GameTap interface, selecting the game and waiting several seconds for it to load so that you can play 5 minutes of Missile Command quickly becomes a frustrating exercise in absurdity.

The PC category offers arguably the quickest way for GameTap to make a decent bang for your 15 bucks. With just couple of today’s hottest selling titles, Turner could pull many customers from the lines at the mall with its more convenient subscription model.

This is perhaps the area where Gametap has made the most progress since launch, adding recent Tomb Raider titles, Empire Earth, and the Prince of Persia series. But aside from those and a few solid titles from the past such as Myst, and Beyond Good and Evil, the selection of Windows games looks more like the greatest hits of the bargain bin than anything which might catch a PC gamer’s eye today.

So while there might be a few decent games here from the past that you might have missed, or may be worth revisiting, don’t expect to find anything remotely recent, or even many of the PC classics such as Doom, Wolfenstein or Diablo. The lack of online play would be another crushing omission, if there were any titles here worth the effort.

Still, the service holds promise. Underneath all the holes in the content, the delivery and execution are excellent, with hardly a noticeable problem whether running a game from 1972, or one from 2002. If the titles keep coming, then so likely will the subscribers. The promise is just too enticing, and the delivery too polished.

If you can’t wait to relive the feeling of spending an afternoon at a spoiled friend’s house in the early 1990’s, then point your browser to Gametap.com and sign up for their two week trial. If you can hold off on that urge for a couple of months however, Turner might just deliver a much more satisfying experience, as the company reportedly has hundreds more games under license.

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