Software developer Aardwork has launched a subscription-based patch management service for PC gamers. GameShadow identifies which games are stored on a user's PC or network and then uses the company's database to find and install available patches.
Aardwork is a software partner of Microsoft, which is itself in the process of updating its own patching system. Microsoft recently announced that as part of its Trustworthy Computing initiative, it will be replacing its individual Windows and Office update services with a single Microsoft Update, which will scan a user's PC or network and automatically locate and install any available patches.
The GameShadow service is designed to take the effort out of finding and installing patches in PC games. According to research carried out by Aardwork, one in three gamers have tried but failed to locate, download and install a patch for one of their games, while almost half of gamers have stopped playing a game because it was buggy.
Aardwork is betting that these gamers are willing to pay for a service that will ensure they will not have to trawl the Internet for updates or have to wait until patches are available from magazine CDs.
Tony Treadwell, chief executive of Aardwork Software, said in a statement: "The more experienced in the gaming community are generally more aware of patch and update existence, but subsequently tend to have the larger games portfolio to manage." Treadwell said that he expects less experienced gamers to also benefit from automated patch updates because "they may not even know that a patch existed".
The company currently supports 500 of the most popular games titles, but Philip Rowden, marketing director at Aardwork, expects this figure to increase very quickly. He told ZDNet UK: "Key titles are added all the time and there is a forum on the Web site, so if somebody has bought our product and we're not supporting one of their games, if they tell us, we will add it to the list."
Aardwork is working on creating strong relationships with games developers and publishers in order to offer its subscribers new titles before they are released to the general public. The company believes it is in a position to negotiate these deals because it can provide games companies with information about gamers: "We can tell them who is downloading these patches, how quickly they are going out, where they are spread out geographically and who is playing what." said Rowden.
Although the company is only concentrating on PC games at this time, it expects to move into consoles "once they are built with an internal hard disk."
A one-year GameShadow subscription costs £19.99. Although the service is designed for home users, Internet cafe owners could arrange a "specific deal", said Rowden.