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(National) Nov. 25, 2004 - Alex Rich is into video games, and one of his favorites is "Top Spin." It allows people to play against people from all over the world online, "The only way I can tell where they're from is by their accent."
The game costs about $50, but that's only the beginning of what you have to pay to play. Game companies charge a subscription fee to play online.
And, Consumer Reports' Kim Kleman says, while the fact there is a fee might be mentioned on the box, how much you'll have to pay is nowhere in sight, "The fees can be as much as $13 a month. But, you only find out how much they are after you get home and set up the game."
To play online you need an ethernet broadband cable and a network adapter. That adds another $50 to your gaming costs.
Other games, like the $50 Madden 2005, work the same way. Factor in the subscription to the Xbox live service, which is sold separately, and the cost doubles, "The companies say these online games are expensive to run, so they need to charge fees. We just think those costs need to be clear before you buy the game." It's possible to find the subscription fee on company web sites, but it's not always easy.
As for Alex, his parents make him pay for the games and the subscription fees with money he earns himself. He says it's more than worth it.
There is a way to try these games out without making a full year's commitment. The companies also offer month-by-month subscriptions. They can end up being more expensive in the long run, but it's a good option if you're worried your kid will lose interest in the game quickly.