Microsoft Launches Instant Messaging Games

From Microsoft’s press release:

Fans of “Wheel of Fortune” are getting ready to spin the wheel and compete against other players — right from MSN Messenger! Microsoft Corp.’s online network today introduced the MSN Instant Games Clubhouse, a subscription, interactive gaming service for MSN Messenger that combines online versions of well-known games with head-to-head competition, advanced features and the convenience of instant messaging (IM).

The new MSN Instant Games Clubhouse debuts in the United States today in time for the release of MSN Messenger 6.2 next week. MSN Messenger is one of the world’s most popular free IM service and boasts more than 120 million users each month. The MSN Instant Games Clubhouse initially will offer four head-to-head games: “Wheel of Fortune” from Sony Pictures Digital Networks; “UPWORDS,” a word game by Hasbro Inc, makers of the SCRABBLE brand crossword game; “Bankshot Billiards,” an online version of pool; and MSN Instant Games Chess, a high-quality, full-featured version of the classic board game. Customers in the United States can play all the games free as part of a 14-day trial. Customers can subscribe to clubhouse games such as “Wheel of Fortune,” “Bankshot Billiards” and “UPWORDS” at a price of $4.99 per month per game or a special introductory price of $14.99 per year per game.* MSN Instant Games Chess is available at a price of $3.99 per month or a special introductory price of $9.99 per year.*

“The popularity of online gaming is booming, with nearly 50 million people already jumping on the Internet, instead of pulling a boxed game from their closet, when they want to play games,” said Blake Irving, corporate vice president for MSN Communications Services and Member Platform Group at Microsoft. “Gaming with MSN Instant Games combines the best of both worlds, bringing some of the most popular boxed games to life online, while enabling people to connect with their friends — or rivals — in gameplay wherever they might be.”

Game On: New Service Offers Challenging, Familiar Games

MSN Instant Games offer MSN Messenger customers online fun and challenges. Here are the new clubhouse games:

  • “Wheel of Fortune.” Get ready to spin the wheel, call a letter and solve the puzzle. MSN Instant Games Clubhouse is the only place on the Internet where players can compete against each other in the online version of America’s No. 1 game show. With the clubhouse version of “Wheel of Fortune” players can enjoy more than a thousand word puzzles.
  • “UPWORDS” Club. The three-dimensional word game is available exclusively through MSN Instant Games Clubhouse and allows players to score points by spelling out words on empty sections of the onscreen grid or on top of words the other player has spelled out. If a competitor’s word seems suspicious, players can challenge their buddy by checking the built-in Encarta Dictionary.
  • “Bankshot Billiards” Club. Ready to become a real pool shark? This game allows players to compete at 8 Ball, 9 Ball and Cutthroat. With 3-D graphics and a realistic feel, the game can be simple, or players can use advanced techniques with shaded on-screen bars that give them more control so they can determine the best angle and power for their shots.
  • Chess Club. Tired of blindly searching for a chess competitor online? This game provides the large, avid audience for chess with a trusted environment in which to play with their friends. If players don’t have time to finish their game, it will automatically be saved for them to restart at a later time. Players can also track their ELO rating (a popular chess rating system) or watch a replay of a previous game to review favorite strategies and moves.

The clubhouse games join a variety of MSN Instant Games available free on MSN Messenger, including “Bejeweled,” Checkers, “Cubis,” “Hexic,” “Minesweeper Flags,” “Mozaki Blocks” and “Solitaire Showdown.”

Features, Gaming Experience Set Apart New MSN Service

MSN Instant Games bring online gameplay to a new level, coupling rich versions of well-known games with advanced MSN Messenger IM functionality.

  • Buddy Scores. Clubhouse games include enhanced buddy score capabilities, enabling players to review their wins and losses and ranking among their friends, and track how they’ve done when competing with specific friends. Detailed statistics are available depending on the clubhouse game, from total winnings in “Wheel of Fortune” to average balls sunk in “Bankshot Billiards.” The Who’s Hot ranking system keeps track of players on a winning streak. Players can watch to see if one of their friends is “on fire.”
  • Roaming capabilities.** Players may be ready to resume a saved chess game with a friend, only to realize they’re on different computers. Now they can log right back in — their game has roamed with them. Do you really like the character you’ve created to depict you when you play “Wheel of Fortune?” No problem. The next time you log in to play, that character will stay with you.
  • No game blocking. Unlike other online game offerings, MSN Instant Games is built into the conversation window of the IM service, not a pop-up window. Pop-up blockers don’t interrupt the gaming experience. The window also can be resized to fill the full screen.
  • Seeing the competition. In addition to trading instant messages with other players while in the game, gamers can conduct webcam sessions, powered by Logitech, so they can see the anguish on the face of a competitor they’ve just defeated. Or vice versa.
  • Playing nonsubscribers. Subscribers to clubhouse games can display their gaming prowess with any of their friends. Just as when they buy a boxed game, players who own a clubhouse game can play it with any of their MSN Messenger contacts in the United States — whether or not those friends subscribe to the game themselves.

“IM takes online gaming to a new level, bringing people together to have fun and compete in a comfortable social setting,” said Amy Jo Kim, principal at SocialDesigner.Net. “MSN Instant Games gives players what they want: popular games, an advanced gaming experience and a way to easily pull their friends into the action.”

Playing MSN Instant Games

Players access MSN Instant Games by going to Actions — Play a Game or by starting a conversation and clicking on the new Fun and Games icon on MSN Messenger 6.2 (currently titled Launch Site). After clicking on a clubhouse or free game and completing initial setup the first time they play each game, MSN Instant Games players can jump directly into an entertainment experience.

Customers need MSN Messenger 6.1 or 6.2 to play MSN Instant Games. The games are designed to be played via a broadband or dial-up connection. Following are the other system requirements:

  • Pentium II 400 MHz processor
  • Microsoft Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) or Windows XP operating system
  • 64 MB of RAM
  • VGA 16-bit color, 800×600 pixel display
  • 8 MB video card
  • Mouse or compatible pointing device
  • DirectX 3.0 multimedia application programming interface (API)

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