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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 October, 2003, 04:37 GMT 05:37 UK
BT promotes broadband for gaming
Alfred Hermida
By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology editor

Screenshot from Project Gotham Racing 2
Test your racing skills against the world online
BT is throwing its weight behind online gaming in an attempt to encourage more people to switch to broadband.

It has joined forces with gaming giants Sony and Microsoft to offer a combined router/modem and broadband package for console gamers.

"Broadband and online gaming are inextricably linked," said BT Openworld boss Duncan Ingram.

BT hopes this will help it reach its ambitious target of five million broadband connections by 2006.

Life's a game

In three years' time, an estimated 10.5 million PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles will have been sold in the UK.

About 1.4 million of these are expected to be hooked up to the net, compared to 100,000 consoles online by the end of this year.

Low penetration of broadband has been an issue, but the UK is now catching up with more advanced other European countries
Rob Cooper, Ubisoft
The emphasis on online gaming is part of BT's strategy to move away from simply talking speed and instead thinking about what you can do with it.

Mr Ingram said people wanted more than just a fast internet connection and were now looking at getting value for money out of a broadband service.

"We are offering more than access," said Mr Ingram. "We see online gaming as a key application that will drive the take-up of broadband."

It points to a study by the research journal Screen Digest showing that by 2006, 17% of people in the UK with broadband will be playing console games.

Gaming experiences

One of BT's partners, Microsoft, is aggressively pushing online gaming through its Xbox Live service.

It is planning to spend 3m in the run-up to Christmas promoting its service.

Ghost Recon
Ghost Recon: One of the most popular online games
"The UK is the biggest country for Xbox Live after North America," said Xbox European boss, Michel Cassius.

He said that a quarter of Xbox gamers in the UK switched to broadband just to play online.

Game publishers such as Ubisoft are backing the plan. But its UK Managing Director, Rob Cooper, was cautious about the short-term prospects for online gaming.

"This is one aspect of gaming and we don't expect it to replace the single-player experience," he said. "But eventually it will become mass-market."

"Low penetration of broadband has been an issue, but the UK is now catching up with other more advanced European countries."

Many of Ubisoft's forthcoming games, such Rainbow Six 3 and XIII, can be played over the net, and it is behind the most popular online game on the Xbox, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon.

"The most freeform and unpredictable gaming experiences come from online gaming," said Mr Cooper.

According to BT, more than 80% of UK homes can now get ADSL broadband - a connection of more than 500kbps over the telephone line.

Goodbye to a flat rate for broadband?
15 Sep 03  |  Technology
Broadband looks to up its appeal
12 Sep 03  |  Technology
Net 'worth little to many Brits'
19 Sep 03  |  Technology
Broadband at the price of dial-up
09 Oct 03  |  Technology
Taking the PlayStation online
13 Jun 03  |  Technology
Xbox Live put to the test
23 Feb 03  |  Technology

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