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The New Games.com: The Latest From AOL, an Online Gaming Pioneer

Posted: 10/09/2012 8:00 am

Today is an exciting day as we launch the NEW Games.com (see our press release here). As the gaming world has been significantly changing the last few years with the advent of social and mobile gaming, we saw an opportunity to develop a truly cross-device gaming platform. We wanted to give our users access to play games wherever they go - web, mobile and tablet plus build a platform that can distribute to additional devices in the future.

Starting today, we at Games.com, a division of AOL, are giving users access to over 5,000 free online games and new features like personalized game recommendations, full-screen gameplay and easy access to gaming history, badges, points and rankings via our new Social Bar. With the launch, Games.com is set to be the destination for gaming. AOL users have always been big gamers (29 minute average session times on the old Games.com) and we're very excited to give them this new industry-leading experience.

As we've been building Games.com this past year, I uncovered quite a bit of history about AOL and the gaming space. I was surprised to discover that AOL was one of the original online gaming pioneers. In fact, the first product the company launched was an online gaming service back in 1983 when the company was called Control Video Corporation. It was a service for the Atari 2600 called GameLine that let users download games to play on their Atari system. It looked like a larger, silver Atari cartridge with a phone jack on the side.

Next in 1985, AOL (then called Quantum Computer Services) launched an online service for Commodore 64 and 128 computers called Quantum Link. This was the start of the AOL Internet subscription service that went on to give millions of people their first access to the Internet... and it shouldn't surprise anyone the four core services of the product were email, chat, news, AND online gaming (including the first online casino - RabbitJack's Casino).

AOL didn't stop there, they continued teaming with top game developers to launch the first MMOGs, MMORPGs and many of the first multiplayer games with rich graphics. See below for a more detailed list of the AOL gaming history and screenshots of the new and previous experiences.

AOL has deep roots in gaming and we are committed to continue offering our users a leading place to discover, play and share games. The NEW Games.com is built with the future in mind. We believe that games are moving to be played across more devices than just computers, phones and tablets, but to TVs, new game consoles and pretty much anything with a screen. Users are playing on multiple devices and a powerful cross-device platform is needed. We are not just building a new gaming site; we are setting a strategy for the future and a commitment to lead the way in the gaming space.

Check out the NEW Games.com and let me know what you think! If you're at GDC Online in Austin, TX stop by booth #318 to meet the team and me.

Notable AOL gaming announcements:

  • AOL partnered with LucasFilm Games (now LucasArts) on Habitat (1986-1988) and Club Caribe (1988). These games are acknowledged today as design benchmarks and the predecessors to today's MMOGs.

  • Launched the first online interactive fiction series QuantamLink Serial by Tracy Reed (1988).

  • Launched the first fully automated Play-by-Email game Quantam Space (1989-1991).

  • Dungeons & Dragons - Neverwinter Nights, was the first multiplayer online role-playing game to display graphics and was a co-development of AOL, Stormfront Studios, SSI, and TSR (1991-1997).

  • August 7, 1995 - AOL Launched an official games channel. In the press release then America Online Services Co. President Ted Leonsis said, "Games reflect the best of what makes an online service enjoyable - engaging content, a sense of community, and the immediacy of communications. The AOL Games Channel will offer the first online game shows, as well as mystery nights, fantasy role-playing games and sports games in one easy-to-use area. In addition to bringing game players to the online community, AOL seeks to introduce the online community to the enjoyment of gameplay."

  • In September 1995 AOL partnered with Simutronics to bring GemStone to AOL users - it was one of the first MMORPGs.

  • May 14, 1996 - AOL brought Slingo to the Games Channel--for a while there was an exclusive arrangement for the multiplayer version of Slingo to only be available on AOL.

  • May 14, 1996 - AOL entered into an exclusive arrangement with Hasbro Interactive Worldwide and NTN Communications' Hospitality Network to offer Trivial Pursuit Interactive to AOL's members worldwide plus "an estimated 15 million gamers in 3,000 restaurants and taverns across North America, in a multi-player format allowing game enthusiasts across the country and abroad to compete against one another," according to the press release.

  • August 6, 1996 - AOL acquired multiplayer games innovator Imagination Network. According to the press release, Imagination Network launched "the first dedicated online games service in 1991."

  • November 22, 1999 - "EA becomes exclusively responsible for content on AOL's Games Channel and for all game content on America Online, Inc. brands AOL.COM, Netcenter and ICQ" (according to the press release).

  • May 11, 2006 - AOL bought casual gaming site Games.com from Infogrames/Atari and merged it with the AOL Games Channel site.

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