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BTopenworld goes gaming

Everyone's favourite telecoms monopoly launches .. something

The collapse of high profile online gaming companies such as Barrysworld and Gameplay earlier this year has apparently done nothing to dent enthusiasm for the field here in the UK, with Telewest's blueyonder gaming portal first past the post. Today it was the turn of BTopenworld to throw their hat into the ring, with the launch of their new Games Domain service. Having acquired the website last month from former owners theglobe.com, BT will be relaunching it as a fully fledged online gaming provider. Features will include dedicated servers for a host of popular titles, a selection of web games such as chess for more casual gamers, and a matchmaking service for popular peer-to-peer games. Details were rather thin on the ground at this stage though and the rather brief presentation would have been even briefer had the computer projecting the flashy intro movie into the auditorium not crashed, prompting some frenzied rebooting and a long embarrassed silence. There was very little of Games Domain actually on show in the demonstration area afterwards either, despite the fact that free trials for the service are about to begin, and none of the people we spoke to seemed to be able to give a straight answer to any of our (admittedly awkward) questions. One of the slides in the presentation had claimed that Games Domain will be the first place on this side of the pond to play PlayStation 2 games over broadband internet connections, which came as something of a surprise given that Telewest are supposed to be working with Sony Europe to trial exactly this kind of technology. There were also vague mentions of cross-platform gaming, but unfortunately nobody seemed to be able to clarify or confirm any of this, with one senior tech bod telling us that online console gaming was something they were looking into for next year. BTopenworld are also promising exclusive mods for the service, but again there was no real explanation as to how this will work or what kind of original content we can expect. All we do know is that the group behind Quake 3 Fortress are involved, and that judging from the screenshots on the press disc we can probably look forward to Quake 3 and Counter-Strike maps emblazoned with Games Domain banners. And there was no word on what BTopenworld will be doing to improve the performance of their broadband network, which to date has proven somewhat unreliable for gamers thanks to packet loss and high contention ratios. Apparently they are investigating the problem, but we couldn't get any specifics. Then there's the question of the price. The trials are due to end in January, and after that punters will be expected to pony up £9.99 a month for the privilege of using Games Domain, even if they are already subscribed to BTopenworld's expensive ADSL service. A "limited amount of free content" will continue to be available for penny pinchers, but as you might have guessed it's not clear yet what that will include. Given the notorious unwillingness of hardcore gamers to actually pay for anything, you have to wonder how much of an audience those exclusive mods are going to have... Related Feature - Telewest launch gaming service

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