In perhaps the one arena where service provider Verizon aims to directly compete with content provider Viacom, Verizon launched its own in-game messaging and advertising platform yesterday, in conjunction with a new team of developers called Super Computer International (SCI). PlayLinc will make use of AOL's open messaging platform to give gamers direct access to one another without leaving the context of their games.
As Viacom discovered last April with the purchase of Xfire, instant messaging gives media providers a lucrative way to contact prospective viewers while they're certain to be paying very, very close attention to their screens. Participating games (PlayLinc is featuring America's Army, which is a US Army recruiting tool) will enable PlayLinc to bring up in-game consoles that let gamers contact one another by keyboard or voice, and even hunt for appropriate hosting sites. Along the way, PlayLinc leaves open just enough of a channel for advertising partners to get a word in edge-wise. Among the first of these ad providers will be - no surprise here - Verizon Wireless.
In today's statement, Verizon implied that the ability to open up a communications channel to make games more innovative is one reason why the PC platform may be evolving more rapidly than for consoles, where the communications channels are locked tightly to their manufacturers. As a fully ad-supported service, both the PlayLinc subscriber and service will be free to subscribers.