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First bite as Apple fishes for iPad games subscriptions

Big Fish swallows small monthly subs

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The first subscription game service for the iPad has been approved by Apple, allowing iPad owners to pay $7 a month for access to games from Big Fish.

Seattle-based Big Fish is the first company to take the Cupertino shilling and agree to hand over 30 per cent of its subscription revenue every month, Bloomberg reports, but for $6.99 players will get unlimited access to the company's portfolio of iPad games as long as they've got the connectivity to play them.

Big Fish's system works by hosting the game in the cloud, with the iPad doing the rendering and collecting user input. That prevents piracy, and enables Big Fish to offer a 30-minute-a-day freebie (with advertising) alongside its subscription offering.

That offering will start at $4.99, rising to $6.99 next year once the company gets a few more titles into the mix. Intriguingly, Big Fish claims 75 per cent of its players are women aged over 30, which might seem a step away from the usual computer-gaming demographic until one remembers that the kitchen is often where last-year's laptop ends up*.

Big Fish isn't the only company sell subs to its games, OnLive already offers a similar service in the form of its PlayPack tariff, but that's only for its own micro console and desktop computers. OnLive says it's planning an iPad service, but so far seems unwilling to share the revenue with Cupertino.

Great chunks of the gaming industry are banking on subscription gaming, but whether gamers will pay for a subscription service, and whether Big Fish can create a viable model while passing almost a third of the revenue to Apple, are open to debate. It will certainly be interesting to see if the idea takes off. ®

* That's not to say women spend all their times in kitchens, but a good deal of gaming is done while waiting for the potatoes to cook these days, and for better or worse the majority of cooking is done by women.

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