GameTap adds free games, store to site

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NEW YORK -- Turner Broadcasting's GameTap was set to announce today a free ad-supported gaming section on its Web site and a digital storefront that will offer day-and-date video game releases, all starting May 31.

The first game offered on the expanded site will be Eidos' "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary." The title will be released to GameTap subscribers and the digital storefront the same day it will be available in stores.

"This to me is a game-changing event," GameTap senior vp and GM Stuart Snyder said. "The broadband audience for digital gaming has arrived."

Previously, only subscribers could play games on GameTap, at a cost of $9.99 per month. The site will still offer more than 850 games in a subscriber-only section at that same price, as well the new digital storefront, in which users will be able to download new games directly from the site.

The free games available on GameTap.com will consist of 30 titles that will rotate weekly. The games will target males age 18-49, and launch titles include Taito's "Bust-A-Move," Eidos' "Space Invaders" and "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend," and Midway's "Joust" and "Robotron 2084."

"We're very much targeting a specific mainstream gamer," Snyder said. "This audience really wants challenging, robust games."

The free part of the Web site also will feature videos from GameTap TV, the site's programming section, including the "GameTap Retrospective" series and "Revisioned," a new animated offering focusing on video game icons.

Snyder mentioned that the new initiative has been widely embraced by marketers already working with Turner.

"All of our advertisers are interested in digital and in this space," he said. "The games category is one of the most popular for ads because this is a passionate audience."

GameTap was launched in 2005. Snyder said the site saw 20 million games played in 2006, at an average of 54,000 a day.

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