On the 'Eve' of Driving Data Adds

Viacom Inc. division Simon & Schuster Interactive is turning to cable to bolster sales of one of its multiplayer video games.

In turn, the unit hopes to convince operators the game can help attract more high-speed Internet access customers.

Simon & Schuster will make the galactic-set Eve, released three months ago, available as a high-speed attraction, sold exclusively by cable systems from September through December at a substantial discount to its $50 retail price.

Armillary Holdings, a company formed by cable veterans Chip James and Bill Zaccheo, is charged with lining up operator agreements and supplying marketing materials. Through Armillary, James heads Rocky Mountain Cable, a Colorado-based operator with about 6,000 subscribers.

James believes the Eve
offer can serve as a first step for operators to diversifying their high-speed offerings.

"There's been more focus on the need for cable people to have broader, more aggressive, value-added marketing to keep their high-speed base growing," he said. "The online game-playing world is a big user of broadband.

"Here's an audience operators can reach by promoting their product for reasons other than the main characteristics of broadband — speed and being always-on."

James arranged the initiative after three months of discussions with Peter Von Schlossberg, S&S Interactive's vice president of marketing and business. Although not a cable guy, "he had a huge awareness of cable's reach and programming prowess," James said.

"He intuitively saw the need for mutual benefit, but with so much internal cable activity at Viacom, he reached out to other people to explore what could be done."

Some informal dialogue with operators has already taken place.

"Universally, the response is positive, and we're clear systems will participate in this to varying degrees," said James. "Some are exploring doing it for a month or two, and others will consider this a pre-Christmas campaign."

In Eve, players become citizens of what Simon & Schuster calls a hypercapitalistic universe, "where space flight is the path to all commerce, communication and conflict."

Gamers who order via cable would receive Eve
free for the first month, along with a CD-ROM featuring a potpourri of software valued at over $100. The CD features such games as Bumper Wars, a video encyclopedia and typing-tutor software.

Monthly fees

Thereafter, subscribers would pay a monthly fee for unlimited use of Eve, with revenue split among the participating operator, Simon & Schuster and developer CCP Games. "Our take: a pittance," James said.

Armillary plans to support the high-speed Eve
by providing MSOs with bill stuffers, print and radio ads. Also on tap: a set of videos to promote Eve
— and high-speed service in general — that can be played from a local system's Web site.

Simon & Schuster will also use the game's official Internet site, www.eve-online.com, to alert the video gamers to its availability on high-speed platforms. A separate information site would be set up for cable activity (www.evecable.com).