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IQ News: Prodigy Aims to Boost Subs With New Games, Areas

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Sensing future defections in the wake of the America Online-CompuServe merger, Prodigy Inc., White Plains, N.Y., is focusing on a new lineup of games and financial content to boost ad revenue and jump-start a subscriber base that has languished at 1 million for the past two years.
Prodigy Internet, which bundles online access with a variety of proprietary content subject areas, is due to relaunch Virtual Arcade by late October. With the arrival of a new game lineup comes the hope of keeping users on the service longer and, in turn, boosting ad rates and enticing new advertisers. Another objective is licensing the new content to other Web sites and Internet service providers, said Chip Austin, Prodigy's senior vice president of sales, who declined to elaborate on prospective clients.
"We're working on the redesign so we can go after big-time advertisers" by either selling banner space, sponsorship opportunities or extending licensing deals, Austin said.
The revamp is being handled by New York-based Brand Games, a division of Media Designs. Brand Games is working on a half-dozen games, redesigning a few classics with animation and crisper graphics and developing at least one new offering, 3D Tic Tac Toe. The new game fare is targeted at Prodigy's core demographic of family users, who prefer slower-paced, chat-intensive games with other players to the shoot 'em up pyrotechnics of Nintendo, Sony PlayStation, Doom and the like.
The recently launched financial area, Prodigy Investor, includes personal portfolio tracking, links to online brokers, a database of mutual funds and access to financial news from Dow Jones Online, Business Wire and Investors Business Daily.
As it has done in the past, Prodigy will promote the new features both online and offline. TBWA Chiat/Day, New York, is its agency of record; an advertising budget and the timing of its campaign were not disclosed. However it develops its brand, Prodigy has lots of ground to catch up among Web newcomers who have flocked to other online services and to the search engines.
"We're picking our spots in the content area where we feel we can differentiate ourselves," said Austin. He added that Prodigy intends to recruit prospective customers based on their interests.
When Prodigy was acquired by International Wireless and other investors, Austin noted, the new owners expected a consolidation would take place in the online world. He now expects AOL "will eliminate [the CompuServe] brand within two years," giving Prodigy a chance to position itself as an alternative online destination.