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Shocking entertainment? On the Web?

Digital convergence may have taken another step closer with Macromedia Inc.'s announcement that it would create a portal for entertainment content that uses its Shockwave player, said analysts on Monday.

The move is reminiscent of RealNetworks' moves to become ubiquitous. "What we see Macromedia doing here is the same as what RealNetworks did with audio and video," said Brian Apgar, chief entrepreneur and co-founder of Mpath Interactive Inc. -- the parent company of online gaming site Mplayer.com.

Mpath was one of 10 partners to sign deals with Macromedia on Monday, agreeing to use the company's technology to create online content. Macromedia is the mind behind the Flash and Shockwave technologies that allow not only animation, but other kinds of media to be downloaded and played on a PC or Flash-enabled device. Two new players -- the Shockwave Remote and the Shockmachine -- were also unveiled Monday.

The switch from tools-based products to Web-based content is a major shift for Macromedia, said Rob Burgess, chairman and CEO of the San Francisco-based company. "We see ourselves perfectly positioned for the digital convergence, but we don't have to wait for high bandwidth to put our content on the Net," Burgess said. Much of what makes the move possible is the extraordinary number of Flash and Shockwave players -- the software needed to display enhanced content -- that have been downloaded by users.

More than 100 million Flash plug-ins have been snapped up from Macromedia's site as well as 70 million Shockwave players, the company said. Last month alone, more than 17 million players were downloaded. For Burgess, those numbers signal that it's time to concentrate on content. "We are not converting our company into this new business," he said. "It is the next step in our evolution." Shockwave.com offers games, comics, cartoons and other forms of entertainment. Eventually, both MP3 music files and QuickTime movie files will be offered from the site.

"What Shockwave bring in is the ability to do highly interactive entertainment online, the same way you do it offline," said David Marshak, senior VP and principal consultant at the Patricia Seybold Group in Boston, adding that it's no surprise that Macromedia's move is timed with the takeoff of casual gaming. According to Mpath's Apgar, the casual gaming segment is the fastest growing on Mplayer.com. Of the top 10 games, half of them are casual, he said.

"We are working with Macromedia to become a technology partner," said Apgar. "It's really good for us at Mplayer to help people create really interesting content." GT Interactive has also joined up as well -- Shockwave.com will feature the company's Real Pool game, ported from Mac and PC to the Web-based Shockwave.

"This part of the business could dwarf their original Macromedia business," said Seybold's Marshak.