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Can AOL become the NFL of video games? Reuters reports today that America Online will be launching AOL Ladders: an online gaming league for Playstation 2 gamers. Players will be able to take on each other in titles such as Madden 2004 and Tony Hawk’s Underground. Basic access to Ladders will be included with an AOL membership, though gamers who want fancier prizes and features can upgrade for between $9.99 - $19.95 per month. As if.

These are rough times for AOL, which his lost about 2 million subscribers in the past year. But a “premium” gaming club is unlikely to stem the mass exodus. The Internet is littered with pay-to-play services like Total Entertainment Network and MPlayer. The first wave hit in the late 90s, when companies tried to monetize the burgeoning community for online games like Quake. The problem then – and now – is that most gamers have the time, will, and chops to organize online tournaments all by themselves. AOL is going to need to have some pretty compelling prizes if they want a SOCOM II fan to cough up twenty bucks a month.

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