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Xbox take on PlayStation in GAA battle

THE Irish company headed by former Longford player Frank McNamee has had talks with Microsoft to develop their GAA computer game.

Rocked by the GAA's decision to enter agreement with Sony and Australian company IR Gurus to produce a Gaelic football game for PlayStation 2 for next year's market, McNamee's company are determined that their product, which will have the backing of most of the top GAA stars, will still see the shelves. McNamee and his partner Michael McMahon, who works in the computer department of Waterford IT, met with representatives of Microsoft's development studios on Monday.

Microsoft is keen to investigate the possibility of developing a GAA game for their Xbox games console.

Xbox is a rapidly developing platform for computer games and any agreement with Microsoft could help save McNamee's project, which is estimated to have cost investors well in excess of ?30,000 already.

Talks with Microsoft are at an early - and confidential - stage and the prospect of a GAA game for Xbox being on the market next year is extremely remote.

But the prospect of two Gaelic football computer games competing on the market, one with the backing and proper titles for the players and one without, is one that can not be ruled out.

McNamee, a GPA member, had sought the backing of the association for his project and had informal talks with the GAA about developing the game.

But two weeks ago, as part of the International Rules tour, the GAA signed a deal with Sony and the developers of an AFL game to proceed with the project.

Neither GAA nor Sony has addressed the issue of players' names or image rights but they may yet offer some royalties on to individuals.

The Sony deal drew sharp criticism from the Gaelic Players' Association, who hit out at the appointment of IR Gurus as games developers in preference to McNamee's company, a decision which ignored their own rules on supporting Irish industry.

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At their gala dinner in the Burlington Hotel on Friday night the GPA's commercial director Donal O'Neill talked guests through the evolution of GAA computer games and showed inserts of what the McNamee-devised game would look like.

O'Neill appealed to all GAA people to use their influence to promote McNamee's project but the company itself has taken it a step further by entering into talks with Microsoft.

According to their own figures, Sony have a 70 per cent penetration of the Irish games market and are predicting close to 500,000 PlayStations in the country by early next year. That leaves the remaining 30 per cent of the market divided between Xbox and PCs.

A market source indicated that for McNamee's game to succeed it would need very significant marketing from Microsoft.

If the Sony game does not get the backing of the players it could lead to an unusual 'play' on names with the likes of Peter Canavan being referred to as Peter Banavan and Seamus Moynihan being called Seamus Coynihan to keep the identity as close to the original as possible.

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