Gaming for the masses

In the past, new PC titles have been priced around $100, but even now games are usually priced in the range of $79 to $89. The possibility a buying a lacklustre game is enough to disgust any gamer.

Seeking to make a market out of such concerns, Telstra BigPond recently launched an online PC game rental service, a first for Australia. The service is targeted at the mainstream - first-time gamers and families - and is a great introduction into the world of gaming.

For a monthly flat rate (paid by credit card), you can subscribe through BigPond's game manager software and play as many games and or times as you like. A component of the game files is stored on your PC; the remainder is then streamed over a "one-off" cached download. As you progress through levels, new levels and game data are downloaded in the background so there is no waiting time between levels once you have finished. With approximately 100 games already listed with GameNow, new release games are being added all the time.

We tested the service using a 512/256Kbps ADSL connection and found the download times for games to be reasonable but varying.

VERDICT: Gamers testing the waters may revel in GameNow's features and simplicity, but hardcore gamers may baulk at the service due to waiting time, no online multiplayer, and the limited number of games available. As more games are added, you can expect to see more converts embracing the online game streaming concept.

BigPond GameNow

Price $19.95 per month with 7-day free trial (existing BigPond customers); $24.95 per month with 3-day trial period (non-BigPond customers); Credit card details required Vendor Telstra BigPond URLwww.gamenow.com.au SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS Broadband: cable or ADSL 512/128Kbps connection recommended; a system check is performed for each game to see if your PC passes the requirements

FEATURES 7 VALUE 8 OVERALL 7

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