BT is launching a computer games system played over phone lines, called Wireplay.
The scheme, which is free to join, will be a direct challenge to gaming over the Internet run by companies such as Entertainment Online. Sega plans to launch a full games service on the Net early next year.
BT will give away 1 million CD-Roms with Wireplay software covermounted on computer magazines.
The company is spending 1.5m marketing the scheme this year, split between consumer press ads and promotional CD-Roms.
Wireplay marketing manager Robert Smith says: “We want to roll out the brand this year and don’t expect to make any money yet. We have a five-year plan.”
Unlike other games systems, Wireplay will not levy any subscription fees. Instead it will make its money through the amount of time spent on the phone. This will work out at 1.50 an hour at evenings and weekends. Entertainment Online charges subscription fees of up to 9.99 per month.
Games on the Net can be downloaded onto a hard drive and stored in the user’s computer. BT claims its games are much faster than rival systems because they use phone lines, which allows users to play more popular racing or “shoot-’em-up” games without continual delays.