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New pay service creates online gaming arena

GameSpot, one of the most popular Web sites for video game enthusiasts, has started a new subscription online service where hard-core gamers can battle each other in the most popular online computer games.

Dubbed a ``premium gaming service,'' GameSpot Game Center will offer $9.99-a-month subscriptions to gamers who will be able to play at the highest speed connections in online games such as Electronic Arts' ``Battlefield 2.'' It will offer discussion groups, voice chat services and tournaments as well. GameSpot is owned by online portal CNet Networks.

The object is to create a cool gaming experience with fast game play and connections with like-minded gamers.

Services like this have failed in the past, but largely because they involved spending a lot of money on computer servers. GameSpot has found a way to reduce that expense by leasing them from a third party.

It remains to be seen if gamers will pay to play online games that they can play for free via the Internet. But GameCenter product manager Sam Parker says GameCenter removes a lot of the hassles from online gaming.

GameCenter will allow players to host their own online games. That means it will allow them to configure a Battlefield 2 game and customize it to their tastes so that as many as 64 players can fight it out without annoying hiccups in broadband service that slow down a game and make it all but impossible to play.

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