Posted on January 17, 2001
Gotta play games? Go online
By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
Computer games can squeeze your wallet, especially if youre the type who cant live without all the latest releases. New titles cost $40-$50 on average, so owning more than a handful of the most popular games can cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
Fortunately, you can save money and still have fun by playing games online through your Internet connection. Online sites also give you access to many games and let you compete in group play or head-to-head against friends, family and other people whether theyre around the corner or around the globe.
Here is a bakers dozen of the best gaming sites. Playing is generally free (revenues are generated by advertisements), although fees are required for some premium games or features.
Flipside.com is a must-bookmark site. It features more than 1,000 solo and multiplayer games, including the party game You Dont Know Jack, from Berkeley Systems. Youll also find The Net Show and classic card and board games. Flipside was the first online gaming hub to let users play games chess and backgammon, for example through the ICQ instant messaging service, which has almost 80 million users around the world.
Gamers who register with the site can win flips points to exchange for hip prizes such as a signed Michael Jordan jersey, a plasma screen television and portable MP3 players. Flips are accrued by playing games and visiting partner Web sites.
With more than 15 million registered users, its no wonder pogo.com is the stickiest entertainment site, with the longest average time per visitor, according to Jupiter Media Metrix.
Virtual versions of beloved childhood favorites are here euchre, hearts, cribbage, spades, bridge and solitaire but the real treats include the strangely addictive puzzler Poppit!; the fantasy football simulation Pigskin Paydirt; and bingo and casino diversions.
Save your quarters and step back in time to indulge in the best in free classic arcade games from the early 1980s: Centipede, Tetris, Missile Command, Defender and Joust, to name just a few. More modern games are also offered, including the stunningly realistic Real Pool 3-D, the fantasy favorite Merlins Quest, an e-mail chess game and Jigsaw Puzzle Maker, where players can import their own pictures to create custom jigsaw puzzles. The site is sponsored by Macromedia, the company that makes the Shockwave software that powers its games. To get started, youll need to download the free Shockwave player.
One of the oldest gaming sites in this list of sites, Mplayer.coms strength is multiplayer gaming. You can play your favorite CD games, such as Baldurs Gate II, Rogue Spear, Giants and Quake III, against other visitors.
Mplayer.com also offers a compilation of online-only free games (where no CD is required), plus theres support for voice and video chat, free voice mail with every membership, gaming news, exclusive events and tournaments and prizes.
MSN Gaming Zone
Zone.com is another successful site that fuses the hardcore gaming community with more casual players. In fact, this Microsoft site is home to the largest online gaming community on the Internet, with more than 18 million registered users and more than 150 classic and modern computer games. While most of the games are free, a few require the CD versions of the game for multiplayer action, and there are some premium titles that work on a pay-to-play model.
Another popular entertainment hub, Uproar is an incentive-based gaming site where players are rewarded for signing up and playing. Some games give away cash, some have prizes such as DVD players and vacations. Arguably, its best games are Family Feud (based on the TV game show), Bingo Blitz, To Tell the Truth and Puzzle-A-Go-Go. The site was recently acquired by another site, iwin (www.iwin.com).
Sonys The Station
If television-based game shows are your forte, head to Sonys The Station, which hosts six kinds of Jeopardy! (multiplayer, rock n roll, sports, etc.), Wheel of Fortune and the Dating Game. Trivia fans can sink their teeth into Trivial Pursuit Online. The Station also is home to the popular EverQuest RPG (role-playing game), but keep in mind it costs roughly $10 a month to play this addictive game online.
French game giant Ubi Soft has recently launched its own online gaming portal, headquartered in Montreal. The site combines magazine-like articles covering the computer and console gaming industry with some excellent single- and multiplayer games to pass the time alone or with friends divided into lofts (action, sports, etc.). Top picks include DJ Nights, an interactive music-based game, and Hexadrome, an addictive strategy game.
No special plug-ins or other downloads are necessary to play Yahoo! Games collection of classics, such as euchre, bridge, chess and spades. There are more than 40 free titles to choose from, including some fantasy sports offerings (hockey, football, baseball, golf, etc.) and a few fun solo games such as Klondike Solitaire and crossword puzzles. The Yahoo! Games page is clean and easy to navigate, and the GameProwler feature integrates Yahoo! Games and Yahoo! Messenger and helps users find friends online to play.
Formerly the Bingo Zone, this site is now owned by the popular Lycos search engine and plays host to many interactive goodies, ranging from casino-based dice and card games to fantasy sports titles and seven kinds of bingo and more. A new section offers classic card game variations including hearts, spades and bridge. Gamesville claims to pay out more than $300,000 per month in cash and prizes.
The Gamespy Arcade
The Gamespy Arcade is a free, downloadable software program for hardcore gamers, especially for those who enjoy 3-D shooters, such as Half-Life and Unreal Tournament. The software searches for players and organizes them to play games, ensuring all players have a smooth, fast connection to the Internet. The site also offers a magazine-like section with informative reviews and feature stories, music, downloadable game demos and add-on levels/maps, comic strips, game development diaries and more.
Blizzard Entertainment, the celebrated game developers behind the immensely popular WarCraft, StarCraft and Diablo computer games, is still making waves online with its Battle.Net gaming portal. Players who own any of Blizzards strategy and role-playing games can log onto Battle.Net for free to chat, host or join multiplayer games and vie for top scores in the competitive ladder standings. Game play is fluid and stable, plus there are downloadable files available, including new game maps and other freebies.
Electronic Arts features many free, as well as some pay-to-play, titles. Currently, more than 30 free games are available. In February, EA plans to roll out premium features gamers can play for a monthly fee of $5 to $10. These include the highly anticipated online-only spy thriller Majestic and Play Against the Pros technology, where its possible to play golf games against Tiger Woods himself for prizes and, of course, bragging rights.