games reporter

Water-cooler moment is aim of Trion b'band

A new broadband video game venture is employing the concept of appointment tele-vision as it aims to woo consumers who are spending an increasing amount of time online looking for entertainment.

Trion World Entertainment will debut this year and cater to the people using a burgeoning array of broadband devices, from mobile phones to video game consoles to PCs, says company founder Lars Buttler, a former executive at Electronic Arts.

"The entire media industry is changing," he says. "It's a radical change, and it is all triggered by broadband. You couldn't do what we're doing five years ago, but you also couldn't have a YouTube or MySpace."

Buttler said that because his company ? which he says is fresh with funding ? has been created specifically for broadband, consumers will be able to connect to Trion's entertainment and video game channels from multiple devices. This means users can play a game on a next-generation console or PC and then check on stats, trade items or connect with friends through portable broadband devices.

"We've developed a network of channels built on a very sophisticated architecture that allows us to keep the content and the games completely live and fresh," Buttler says. "We can also introduce the component of time into the game, similar to TV entertainment's primetime block, which schedules specific significant events within the game world that only occur at that time.

"If you're not there tonight, you'll miss it, and you will not be able to have the water-cooler conversation with your friends the next morning."

Because the game experiences that will fit into this daily and weekly programming borrow a lot from TV, Buttler says Trion is reaching out to Hollywood TV creators and producers and production companies, as well as video game makers, to provide entertainment for its channels.

"Despite the 7.5 million subscribers who play 'World of Warcraft' online or the millions of gamers who enjoy Xbox Live or casual game sites like Pogo.com, the games industry hasn't truly cracked broadband yet," Buttler says. "I think that these are all the right steps, but it's still too close to the traditional TV paradigm. I don't think that it encompasses enough of the real power of online and the real power of interactivity. I talk about games that have game mechanics that really hook you, that have really deep experiences that allow you to upload your own content through Web 2.0 and have specific primetime events daily."

Buttler says Trion, with offices in Redwood City, Calif., and Austin, will explore all facets of interactivity with its games, with subscriptions, micro transactions and advertising. To appeal to a wide range of broadband consumers, for example, Trion will offer rich online games that require subscriptions, more casual games that are ad-supported and others that can be purchased and downloaded.

"The game industry is evolving from single-player to multiplayer to really massive social experiences thanks to broadband," Buttler says. "If you look at casual game sites, which are popular with men as well as women, it's more about the social experience than it is playing games. You always play in a group, and you chat with others around the country or around the world. Games like 'World of Warcraft' introduce friendships and even result in marriages."

The connected, user-generated consumers that are flocking online are among the target audiences to which Trion hopes to appeal, as are the gamers who spend hundreds of hours playing "Gears of War" or "Madden NFL 07" on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network and the millions of casual, older players who partake in such games as backgammon and Phlinx to socialize.
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