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  Beyond the Zone

 

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Beyond the Zone – MSN Games Looks to the Future
Classic games have been retired; updated versions of your favorite games now available; new games on the way!

It’s hard to imagine, but MSN Games is now a decade old. Ten years is a long time in the gaming world: it’s nearly half the age of the World Wide Web and over a quarter of the entire history of home videogames! But hey, who checks the clock in the middle of a party?

 

 

 

As we gear up for a second decade, our objective is still the same: to be your favorite place to play the world’s most popular games, fill a bit of spare time, de-stress during lunch, catch up with friends, or “accidentally” miss a staff meeting. In pursuit of this ever-tantalizing goal, we plan to make a few significant changes to MSN Games over the next few months.

First, some tearful farewells: in June 2006, we retired our CD-ROM matchmaking service, along with the classic versions of several card and board games: Classic Backgammon, Classic Checkers, Chess, Cribbage, Euchre, Go, Classic Hearts, Reversi, and Spades. We are sad to see them go! These games are like old friends: they gave us our start, and helped us grow from an innovative little entertainment site to a truly stellar online gaming experience. But over the years, it’s become more and more difficult to maintain the aging hardware and software that supports them. We held out absolutely as long as we could, but it was finally time to make that decision.

And now that it’s made, we’re actually very happy about it. Why? Because now our time, energy, and resources can be turned to creating newer, better versions of your (and our) favorite games! The same teams who brought you updated, feature-filled, and gorgeous new versions of Hearts, Dominoes, Checkers, Spades, Chess, and Texas Hold’Em are currently hard at work on such groundbreaking titles as Sudoku Too. Site programmers are evaluating new, more secure ways to implement tournaments, ladders, and community talk. Our writers and editors are typing away at a whole new range of game reviews, news, and feature stories. In short, MSN Games is rapidly becoming an even better place to play.

So kick off your shoes: the party’s just getting started!

Anticipating a few questions, here are some ready-made answers:

 

 

 

When will the new games be available?
If your game is Hearts, Checkers, Backgammon, Spades, Chess, Texas Hold'Em, or the Windows Live™ Messenger version of Reversi, we already have you covered. In addition, MSN Games now offers an exciting online version of everyone's favorite party game – UNO®! Next up MSN Games will be adding Sudoku Too (a multiplayer version of the popular number puzzle game) and Solitaire In Motion (a new twist on classic solitaire that we're sure you'll love). We can’t announce anything past that yet, but we can certainly say there are always more games in the works. Incidentally, re-creating your favorite classic games gives us an opportunity to include new variants and features, so we’re sure you’re going to love the results!

Will there be tournaments?
Not at first. We know, however, that for some players the excitement of a hard-fought game is second only to the thrill of seeing their name in the winner’s circle. So of course we’re investigating a new and improved system for both player-run and sponsored tournaments.

Will I get to keep my MSN Games nickname?
Definitely! However, as part of this process, we’ll be updating the Nickname system so that only one MSN Games nickname can be assigned to each Windows Live account. If you already have multiple nicknames, this is the time to decide which one is your favorite! When the site is updated on June 19, 2006, whichever nickname you are currently using is the one that will “stick.” All other nicknames will become unavailable, and cannot be recreated for a period of time.

What about ZoneFriends?
Along with our old servers, the ZoneFriends tool will be taking a long-overdue retirement. All of our remaining (and future!) multiplayer games will be integrated with Windows Live Messenger. This is a big, big step forward for us. With its wide range of contact and message functions, handy additional features and even exclusive games, Messenger is everything that ZoneFriends wanted to be when it grew up.

So, wait, does this mean no lobbies?
That’s correct, at least for now. The old lobby system was built into our earliest classic games, and is to current game technology what a biplane engine would be to a stealth jet: similar, but essentially incompatible. Online gaming is all about community, so in addition to the in-game chat and Messenger-based invitation ability of our new multiplayer games, we’ve been researching new social and community features for both the games and our site in general. Of course the end result will be fun to use, but we’re also aiming for something that will still be as fun and useful after our second decade joins the first.

Well, what if I don’t want to give my Messenger address to strangers?
Not a problem. Just set up a separate free Windows Live Messenger account for playing online. That way, you can keep your primary address secret, and still take advantage of all the features that Messenger has to offer. You’ll need to re-add your current game-playing buddies to your new Friends list, and then you can invite them to play any time!

What if I add somebody to my Messenger Friends list and they turn out to be a jerk?
Ditch ‘em. Not only can you block somebody from contacting you via Messenger, but you can also add them to your Do Not Match list. Players on this list will not be auto-matched to you for casual play, although you may still run into them in a randomly matched rated game. (If you’re going to be the best, you have to beat the best, even if they’re obnoxious. So for these situations, we’ve also provided you with a Mute Chat button… just because you’re playing against a jerk doesn’t mean you have to listen to them!)

What’s happening with the Member Plus program?
Officially, the Member Plus program has ended. No worries, though: there are still countless ways to engage and interact with others on MSN Games, and many opportunities for you to share your passion for online games with other players. In short, there are still many great ways for you to be you!

Thanks to all who have participated in the Member Plus program, past and present… you rock!

Okay, so where do I go now to play my classic games?
Some games are already available in new versions, and others are on the way. Still more are available on other platforms, such as Messenger or Xbox Live Arcade. Please see the following pages for information on specific games!

Age of Empires, Age of Empires: Rise of Rome, Age of Empires II, and Age of Empires II: the Conquerors

Backgammon

Checkers

Chess

Cribbage

Euchre

Flight Simulator 2004

Hearts

Links LS 2000 and Links 2003

MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries and MechWarrior 4: Vengeance

Midtown Madness 2 and Motocross Madness 2

Rainbow Six and Rogue Spear

Reversi

Spades

Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds


How can I comment on these changes or tell you which games I’d like you to update?
Piece of cake; just email zsuggest@microsoft.com and tell us what you think! In addition, you can read the logs of the May 2006 series of chats to see if your question has already been addressed.

May 1, 10am PST – CHAT LOG NOW POSTED

May 1, 3pm PST – CHAT LOG NOW POSTED

May 8, 10am PST – CHAT LOG NOW POSTED

Where can I go to connect with other classic gamers?
To connect with other gamers, keep up with the latest news, and get game tips and tricks, check out the MSN Games Forums.

 

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