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Games Take Off in Great White North

2/13/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

As broadband providers move well beyond high-speed Internet’s early adopters and battle numerous competitors for market share, they’re increasingly paying attention to add-on services to solidify their hold on customers.

Bell Canada has launched a number of premium services — including a games package from Exent Technologies — that it says have helped boost premium-service revenue and reduce customer disconnects.

BUSTS CHURN

Games On Demand customers are 75% less likely to churn from digital subscriber line services, Bell Canada found in its research.

“We’re pretty happy with it,” said Pat McLean, director of Sympatico Enhanced Services, Bell Canada’s DSL service. “It’s a very successful service for us.”

Bell Canada offers more than 150 games in a monthly $14.95 (Canadian) package to its 1.5 million Sympatico DSL subscribers. Launched three years ago with 15 to 20 games, the package has evolved to include games across all genres — such as action, role-playing, sports and family — and includes five new games each month.

Bell Canada’s core service area is in Ontario and Quebec. It competes against Rogers Communications Inc., Vidéotron Ltée and Cogeco Cable Inc. for high-speed Internet customers and, increasingly, for phone customers.

“We’ve had intensive price competition since broadband was introduced,” McLean said. Bell Canada counts 7 million local lines and 1.5 million DSL subscribers.

Overall, broadband penetration in Canada is north of 60%.

Bell Canada offers a 256 Kbps service for $29.95 a month, a 3 Mbps service for $44.95 and a 4 Mbps service for $59.95 a month.

But competition has spurred $19.95-per-month promotions, and the intensity has only picked up as cable companies have launched voice-over-Internet protocol.

As competition increased, Bell Canada cast about for ways to improve its high-speed Internet offering. Enter Exent and games on demand.

“It was about developing services and approaching the content space by trying to get people as high up the food chain as we can,” McLean said. “Last year, we launched a jointly operated portal with MSN. We have a concert series we produce ourselves that is just available to high-speed users.

“We’re trying to do the same things with other content categories, to get people to use their speed.”

The Games on Demand launch grew from that initiative three years ago. The service launched with 15 games, but now counts more than 100.

“We’re looking to expand the kids and educational category,” McLean said. “We’re looking to grow that library. We want to create a unique experience, just for kids, that focuses on the value proposition,” he said, adding that a separate kids package may be in the offing.

COMCAST USES IT

Exent has more than 15 companies worldwide using its gaming platform, including Comcast Corp. and RCN Corp. in the U.S.

Comcast offers more than 100 games in a $14.95 a month package and a smaller games in a $7.95 a month kids package, which both launched in the second half of 2004.

Exent company secures games from game publishers and offers a software and hardware platform.

Exent can handle billing and offers broadband providers several options, including monthly fees and pay-per-use. “You can have multiple business models,” said Yoav Tzruya, vice president of products and market strategy.

Exent has enabled more than 2,500 games, including content from Ubisoft, Vivendi and Microsoft, Tzruya said.

Genres include arcade, strategy, role playing, racing and some sports, such as Civilization 3, the Tomb Raider Series, Star Trek Armada 2, Neverwinter Nights, Backyard Soccer and Pajama Sam.

 

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