Microsoft unveils new version of gaming network
By Marc Saltzman
April 27, 1998
Web posted at: 1:32 PM EDT (1332 GMT)
of the world’s largest multiplayer gaming networks - Microsoft’s Internet
Gaming Zone - has released the new version of its client software. So,
why is this announcement newsworthy? In the Zone’s two-and-a-half year
history, this is the first time Netscape users will be able to participate
in the popular gaming network. Prior to this, only gamers using the
Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) browser could join in on the fun.
In light of Microsoft’s current legal troubles with the U.S. Department
of Justice, most readers would probably agree this decision was a political
one. After all, Microsoft recently launched its second newspaper campaign
charging the government for trying to stifle innovation, and has also
made other efforts over the past few months to appease the courts and
improve its public image. In this case, however, the resolve to allow
non-IE users on the Zone began over a year ago, with nine months dedicated
to revamping and testing the software.
Ed Fries, general manager of the Microsoft Games Group, explains why
Microsoft opted for Netscape browser support. “We want the Zone to be
open to the largest amount of gamers everywhere…and this is the first
step toward that”.
maintains the Zone team was close to releasing a Netscape version a
few months back by attempting to simulate an ActiveX plug-in for Netscape’s
browser, but wasn’t pleased with the preliminary results. “We weren’t
happy with the quality so we decided to go with a more ambitious approach."
This enterprising goal was to extract most of the code out of the browser
itself and allow the Zone to operate more as a stand-alone package,
but make the transition appear seamless to the user.
Other new features added to the latest Zone software, dubbed “Z4”
by the Microsoft Games Group, includes a rating and ranking system so
players can compete for top positions. It also uses a smaller downloadable
client (reduced to less than 1 MB from over 3 MB), and a more streamlined
interface to make launching games easier.
The Internet Gaming Zone is only second to Blizzard’s Battle.net in
number of registered gamers. The Zone jumped from 1.1 million users
to almost 1.5 million in the past two months.
majority of the Zone’s success can be attributed to the large variety
of games played – from free classics like “Spades” and “Hearts” to exclusive
retail game support for Microsoft, LucasArts and Hasbro Interactive
CD-ROMs to online-only premium games such as “Fighter Ace” and the upcoming
role-playing game “Asheron’s Call." Additionally, the Zone announced
support for the popular “Quake II” and an exclusive agreement with author
Tom Clancy and his software company Red Storm Entertainment to host
multiplayer games of “Rainbow Six” and “Dominant Species."