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Computer games ready to invade by satellite

SATELLITE television has brought us a lot of things - not all savoury. The latest invasion from the skies looks set to be computer games.

The Sega Channel will launch on US cable television at the beginning of 1994. It is likely to appear on a European satellite system shortly afterwards. The channel will carry 50 games that can be downloaded into a special tuner/decoder that will plug into a Sega Megadrive games system.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago last week, Stanley Thomas, president of the Sega Channel, said he was looking at setting up a European operation. 'Developing an international strategy is a major objective of ours.'

Sega is setting up the channel with TCI and Time Warner - the two largest cable operators in the US. However, the channel will be offered to all cable operators, which means it could reach 57 million homes in the US. It will be tested in about 350,000 homes this September. The price will be between dollars 10 and dollars 20 ( pounds 6.50- pounds 13.20) per month.

Because so few homes in the UK are connected to cable, the company is looking at satellite. If it chooses the Astra satellite system, which transmits BSkyB, the channel could cover almost all of the European market.

The selection of titles on the channel will change every month and a subscriber will be able to download any game.

Meanwhile, films will soon be available on compact disc. Paramount announced at the show that it would release films on five-inch CD-I compact discs. CD-I discs contain sound, animation, pictures and text. CD-I players already play standard audio discs and Photo CD discs, but later this year Philips will launch an add-in cartridge to allow images to be read from special discs.

Paramount also said that, with Philips, it would develop three 'interactive movies' where the viewer can control how the story develops.