Game Tapped

Ever since I heard the first rumblings of GameTap I was intrigued. They were offering me the opportunity to play lots of old classic games on demand for a monthly fee. I actually was able to get my hands on a demo of the service that they had set up at E3 and decided to give the two week trial a try.

Getting started with GameTap was relatively painless. After coughing up my billing information, I was able to register for an account and start downloading the launcher.

Once I finally logged in to the service I was able to see what (at least part of) the fuss was all about.

GameTap is divided into three areas: My GameTap, GameTap TV, and the Game Vault. The Game Vault is (obviously) where you’ll be playing your games, My GameTap allows you to change your account settings, and GameTap TV is where you can watch on demand programming, some original and some not.

Odds are that the Games section is where you’re going to be spending the majority of your time. There are currently upwards of 500 games to choose from with the promise of new games to be added regularly. In the couple of weeks that I’ve had the service new games have been added at least two times. The breadth of the games that are available on the service is impressive. There are of course games from the Genesis and the arcade, but there are also representatives from the Commodore 64, Atari 2600, DOS, Game Gear, Intellivision, Neo-Geo, 32x, Master System, Windows, and even Dreamcast games. There don’t seem to be any games for Nintendo’s systems available on the service, but I would venture a guess that’s because those games may be featured on their own Virtual Console service that’s touted to be a part of the Wii experience. So no Super Mario Bros., or the like, unfortunately.

Once you choose the game you wish to play, you are then taken to a screen explaining what the game’s all about, and should you still want to play, it begins downloading the game while showing you the controls and showing you commercials of other ‘stuff’ that you can check out on the network, like a new game or show or whatever.

If you’re thinking about trying out the service, I can not emphasize enough that you will want to get a controller to play these games. For some of the simpler games you could probably get away with using your computer keyboard as a controller, but to me it just ‘feels’ wrong. Of course, playing the arcade version of Street Fighter II with a game pad doesn’t feel quite right either, it’s a whole lot easier than trying to pull off a Shoryuken with the keyboard arrows.

Of all the games I played, they were all emulated pretty well. On some of the larger arcade games that I played the sound seemed to stutter a bit, but I’m going to attribute that to the game loading in the background as I was playing it, as the stuttering lessened significantly after I had played around with the game for a while.

Load times for most of the games on GameTap are pretty low. Understandably, loading the Dreamcast or Windows games is going to take a lot of time, but you have the ability to put the games in a download queue in the background so that they’ll still download while you pick some other games to play. You can have up to three games in your queue at a time, and most of the game’s assets (data required for the game to run) will be saved locally on your computer to lessen the time you have to wait to play the games again in the future should you want to do so.

GameTap TV is the part of the service where you can watch shows about video games or Space Ghost Coast to Coast. They seem to put up new content on there every so often, but honestly I didn’t watch a whole lot of it.

My GameTap lets you look at and change your account settings as well as creating Sub Accounts for restricted access (like if you have kids and want them to have restricted access to the games, for example). I have little no use for most of these features, so I didn’t spend much time goofing around this menu.

The main complaint I have with the service is that should you decide you want to cancel your account for some reason, you are required to call the company to do so. You are able to sign up and do other account management on their site, but just not cancel. I’m lazy enough that I didn’t bother to cancel my account in the trial period, and had to pay for another month. I suspect that I’m not alone. It seems a bit underhanded to me for them to have an easy way to sign up and make you jump through hoops should you decide you are through using their service.

If you’re into the classic games, you might want to give it a shot. The current monthly fee is pretty reasonable for what you get. Most of the games on the service will run just fine on just about any computer, you should be aware that if you want to run some of the Windows or Dreamcast games, you’ll want to have a pretty beefy PC for a decent experience. Oh, and the broadband. You’ll need the broadband. I wouldn’t want to try and download Beyond Good and Evil over a dialup connection.