Trailblazer - Giving the game away.

Who was it said nothing is free? They were wrong. Pure Entertainment, which since 1996 has been developing top-selling computer games like Rat Attack and Lunatik, is going to give its games away on its new web site.

Who was it said nothing is free? They were wrong. Pure Entertainment,

which since 1996 has been developing top-selling computer games like Rat

Attack and Lunatik, is going to give its games away on its new web

site.



Not just a few dodgy ones either, and not as dangling carrots to lure

users into paying for more. They’re giving away the same games you would

previously have paid #40 for - for free.



Pure Entertainment has completely changed its business model in a daring

move which sees it metamorphosise from a games manufacturer into a media

company with the launch of Freeloader.com. From now on, it will make its

money from advertising revenue. It’s a dramatic turnaround, but chief

executive Harry Holmwood and head of marketing Julian Perry are brimming

with confidence.



”Our business model is about creating a site which is so attractive that

we will be able to attract enough advertising to pay for it,” says

Holmwood.



”By giving away top games for free, we are filling an enormous gap in the

market.”



According to Holmwood, the games market has never reached the mass

audience of the music market because each game is so expensive. ”There’s a

whole singles market to give people a taster so they’ll go out and buy the

CD,” he explains. ”By giving games away for free, many more people will

try them.”



The way the site works is that if a game has, say, 10 levels of play,

users can download a few at a time. When they’ve completed those, they can

return for more. It means they don’t have to grapple with an 800Mb

download. It also means they keep returning. ”It makes the site sticky,

which will help with advertising,” says Perry.



The site will soft launch in late March and launch fully in May with about

15 games, of which at least three will be ”cutting-edge, exclusive,

never-seen-before products”, according to Holmwood. More will come later

and they will vary in style. The pair say that they want to target anyone

who has ever played Solitaire on their PC and assumes you have to read a

manual before playing anything more advanced.



Considering that these games can cost millions to develop, the site will

have to generate more than a modest amount of advertising.



It will do so, says Perry, by its wide appeal to users and advertisers

alike. ”Our advertisers should be very broad, because we’re getting away

from this idea of being just a site for hardcore enthusiasts,” he

explains.



Even so, with so many other start-ups out there, is there enough revenue

to go round?



”People talk about advertising on the net as if it’s an established

process, and it isn’t,” insists Holmwood. ”We’re not naive enough to think

that our advertising will go through the roof from day one, and our model

is designed to make a loss for the first two years. There might be only so

many advertisers to go round, but we think we’ll be one of the top

sites.”



This is bullish talk, but it might be justified. Where Pure Entertainment

differs from other ventures is that it’s not simply transferring an

existing business online. By developing a whole new model, it avoids

detracting from a core offline business.



”If you can do on the net what you could do in a phone call, then that’s

not really a net business,” says Holmwood. ”It’s just a mail-order

operation. Businesses go online and undercut each other to differentiate

themselves. How is Amazon different from BOL? They compete on price.”



Of course, Freeloader.com is doing the same - and taking it to the limit -

but as part of a whole different strategy. ”We’re even undercutting the

black market,” grins Perry. And given that many people will queue in the

rain for anything if it’s free, a site like this seems sure to appeal.



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