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Close Look at Gametap

Date: November 7, 2005
Author(s): Jen McPherson

GameTap is a new application that boasts a hoard of video games for the biggest of gaming enthusiasts, with many old and new game titles from multiple platforms and systems. It promises all the games in their original formats, total old school glory, and you can access the GameTap network right from your desktop, all in one. GameTap also promises new game releases often, new content and original programing for their MediaPlex within the GameTap software. Itching for some old school gaming? Then lets dive right in!



Gametap Introduction

Installation & Play

Downloading GameTap took no time at all, and the installation was relatively quick. It took a few minutes to download the updates, but once in everything ran smooth and was easy to find.

Plugging in my joypad it registered fast… but I had one problem. My controller wasn’t working with the GameTap. The buttons weren’t working, nothing assigned correctly to the controls, and when I tested it outside of GameTap it worked just fine. There was no control panel inside the GameTap program to reset the keys… or to change the key shortcuts for using the keyboard. An update fixed the joypad issue for me, but the buttons were still all assigned wrong, and again there was no way to correct it within GameTap.

By entering My GameTap, you can add more controllers as well as new users. There are parental settings within the program, a great addition for parents. Here you can adjust your account settings, change your password, enter account information and so on. One feature they do need here is keyboard and controller key assigning.

All games are organized in several different categories in the Game Vault. Here you can search for titles, choose from particular systems, select from your favorites, or game types, such as action, adventure, simulation, strategy, role-playing, sports and so on. All games are relatively easy to find and the menus are set up well and navigation is smooth.

So, using my gimped joy pad setup, I started playing. Clicking on a game will pull up an information box, telling you a little about the game, the year it was published, developer and genre. Other tabs that you can click on give you access to other information, such as how to play, bonus material, and parental controls. At the top of this box is also a quick button so you can add the game to your Favorites list. This you can access by clicking on the Game Dock link at the bottom or the My Favorites in the central Game Vault list. Pressing start begins the load.

Now, here is where it depends on what type of game you are uploading. Games for the Atari or Genesis, with low graphics, load up relatively quickly… about 15 seconds or less. This is really great, especially with kids, because my son is extremely impatient. Not a desired trait, but all kids are antsy, so having a fast upload for low end games is good. The 3D games and PC titles take the longest, with some PC titles taking nearly forty-fifty minutes to load.

This is a bit… disappointing. In order to really enjoy the game you’d have to begin the upload long before you plan to play, and some of us don’t have that luxury to wait that long. But this is where you’d have to take care… because you can tab out of GameTap… so the wait isn’t something that you have to sit and watch… stare at until it is completed, yet if you forget your upload and tab back in much later, GameTap will auto log you out, and then you’ll have to restart the download all over again. I’ve done it… frustrating. Took an hour and twenty minutes to play a game of Zeus.


Mediaplex and Questions

Game play was great though. All the games run smoothly with no noticeable lag. The PC titles do have some patches where you’ll get a little slow down times, a bit of lag from the server, but it is understandable with the size of the game. Otherwise play is relatively uninhibited. I played several games of Sonic 2, and a few games on Zeus. My son got to test it out probably more than I did, for he was constantly stealing the controller from me.

The MediaPlex has programming that is exclusive to the GameTap service, with behind the scenes information on Game Tap entertainment. It is the first broadband network of its kind devoted to video games, with bandwidth-fueled video features, histories, shows and more. The latest news about upcoming game releases will also be announced here.

The MediaPlex, from my standpoint is a lot like a commercial system: advertising up coming games, small comic shorts, interviews and small shows. You view it between games, or while your waiting for games to load. It has a lot of potential outside this though, and hope to see more of their promised programming, along with other shows, cartoons and other things of interest to gamers.

You can see the MediaPlex as stated between games, or you can go directly to it and check out the content it has. There are usually several short shows available to watch, but as stated before these shows won’t hold you off long enough for a PC title download. More expansion of the shows within the MediaPlex could help sedate the wait for those downloads, and also provide some fun entertainment for subscribers.

Questions & Answers

After reviewing GameTap I had a few questions for them about the service and its growth. Answers provided by Rick Sanchez, VP of Content for GameTap.

Jen McPherson: I would like to know if GameTap plans to have other game console titles available within the future, like Playstation and Nintendo, as well as PC titles by Microsoft, Blizzard or other companies?

Rick Sanchez: Although we currently have an expansive offering of almost a dozen consoles, GameTap definitely plans to roll out more systems in the coming months. I can tell you that we are planning to have the Saturn system up and running on GameTap in Q1 of ’06. In terms of new games, we currently have 1,500 under license and will continue to add and grow the service in an effort to make it as robust as possible. We recently announced that Electronic Arts and Capcom signed agreements to have games on GameTap, and we are continuing talks with the other major players in the industry, so there will be more to come on this in the future.

Jen McPherson: I’d also like to know the further use of the MediaPlex. What forms of media do you have in store for it? Will you offer movies for viewing in the future, shows, anime or other cartoons?

Rick Sanchez: The MediaPlex currently contains a full spectrum of original programming with new installments in the works for each segment, including the popular Space Ghost series. Beyond the regular shows, GameTap Entertainment is working with publishers to develop game trailers and other content for usage inside and outside of the GameTap world. For example, Turner recently announced the development of a behind-the-scenes documentary for Ubisoft’s widely anticipated video game title: Myst® V: End of Ages.

The documentary, which will be packaged with the Myst V: End of Ages Limited Edition disk as a bonus DVD, will explore the story behind Ubisoft’s best-selling Myst franchise and focus on the creation of its final adventure. We are also actively working with a number of content creators to bring both established anime and cartoon series to the MediaPlex, but we want to go beyond the familiar and source some original programming as well that you’ll find nowhere but on GameTap.


Interview Cont. and Conclusions

Jen McPherson: Will GameTap ever be functional with a dial-up connection or is it going to stay strictly high speed users?

Rick Sanchez: GameTap is currently focused on the broadband market since it is the optimum medium for experiencing the array of content GameTap offers in the manner in which it was designed. At its heart, GameTap truly is a “Broadband” network and all of our video programming and game selections are made with that in mind.

Jen McPherson: How often will new titles be introduced? Will there be online game options for online multi-player, or other MMO’s available later? Can subscribers request game titles to be added?

Rick Sanchez: New titles will be introduced on a weekly basis every Thursday. We are working towards online multi-player, but it is not a part of the current network. In terms of subscriber requests, GameTap has been actively courting the publishers of all the best content, so if it’s a decent game, chances are it will end up on our service.

Thank you Mr. Sanchez for answering my questions, it is very much appreciated.

Conclusion & Observations

From what I’ve seen GameTap boasts a huge assortment of games that is only going to grow with time. The service is geared towards broadband only, which can be a bit of a disappointment to those who’d really like this application. Yet with its features I can see why it is broadband only, and so don’t see this as a negative factor. The actual program is easy to use and navigate, with a nice layout and good design.

I only have two complaints about the actual GameTap application. First is the slow loading times for PC titles. Yes, they state in their FAQ that it can take a while, and why, but it is still a bit of a disappointment to wait so long. You can wait up to 40 minutes or so, even longer, for a game to load up, and for some of us who like to play a quick game… it isn’t a plus. You can tab out of the GameTap program, which saved me on staring at the MediaPlex that at this time doesn’t have a huge assortment of content. It is a great feature though, and so playing it up more in the future would be great for those long loading times.

My second dislike was that there is no current way to assign keyboard controls or configure your controller within GameTap. This feature alone may turn people off, like it did me when I couldn’t use my Logitech Precision joy pad. An update by GameTap fixed that compatibility issue, but the buttons were assigned weird, and there was no way to change it. Yet I have been assured that this feature is being worked on, and hopefully will be implemented soon.

For kids or adults GameTap offers many games across a broad range of platforms, that can sedate the casual gamer to the old school junkie. Not only that, but you can sign up now, and play over 300 games on GameTap for two weeks free. After the trial period GameTap is $14.95/ month… which at this time I think is steep, considering that the average MMORPG costs that much, and with the minimal content it holds it just doesn’t feel worth that much. Its also only available for US residents.

So if your itching to find the chaos emeralds and beat Dr. Robotnic in Sonic the Hedge Hog, or play an fun round of ‘leap over the crock pond’ in Pitfall, then this service is surely worth a try. The subscription fee just kills my inner child though. Maybe you would find it worth the fee, so I’d suggest trying it out and seeing for yourself.

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