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Acclaim to Publish Free Ad-Supported Games

Aside from its Tony Hawk franchise, U.S. video game publisher Acclaim hasn't had a solid hit in years, but the publisher, which went bankrupt in 2004, has now decided to test the uncharted waters of massively multiplayer online games, developing publishing from the Asian market but tailoring them to the U.S. market. The curious shift is also underlined by a changing business model: its games will be free to download and will be supported by ads and the sale of virtual items. The oft-described "free game" model has been talked about but never implanted in North America, but it's been a success in Asia. Acclaim execs say they've spent considerable time in Asia studying the model, which they say reflects the entertainment business more than the video game business. The company would move to providing entertainment and services through its game platform rather than a product that one has to go out and buy. Its first game will be a shooter called BOTS in which players are offered hundreds of upgrades for their robot avatars, but parts for upgrades will be sold at a price. But how will items for sale affect game play? Won't it devolve into he who spends the most money wins? Acclaim execs admit that upgrades will give you certain advantages, but not game-play advantages. Will it work? That's anybody's guess, but advertisers, as ever, will surely wait and see.

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