GameTap is early to the party

Gametap/FlickrGameTap cuts ahead of one of the most anticipated titles of this year with a re-release of the original through ad-supported play. But their model may be too early to the party.

This fall will see the release of a game called Fallout 3, which is one of the games likely to win game of the year for 2008. What’s interesting about this game, is that it is a sequel to a game from ten years ago.

The above scenario presents an interesting conundrum. For older games, where do gamers go to play the back-content to the new release? One new option is to play the original on GameTap. For free.

GameTap, in its current incarnation, contains a brilliant idea: repurpose classic games for ad-supported play. The company still focuses on its original subscription-based model, offering some original content and a larger library solely through “gold” level subscriptions, but they have surprisingly high quality titles available to play for free. They monetize these games by preceding each session with a short ad. The combination of older “core” game libraries with “casual” monetization is nothing short of genius – unfortunately, it’s also ahead of its time.

The problem with being early to a party is that you have to hold the ground until everyone else arrives. And that is precisely GameTap’s issue – the market isn’t quite ready to adopt this model yet. As digital downloads eclipse retail – a trend well on its way for PC games – the used game market will eventually be eradicated. Once that occurs, games beyond three years old will simply be unable to compete with new titles, even at “bargain” prices. However, these games will still have monetization opportunities through ad-supported play. Considering the industry trend of franchises over new projects, there will also be an enduring interest in older titles.