Tinyonline.net members can now play each other at popular board games over the internet thanks to technology Tiny has licensed from online game company Hi2.

The new Games Arena on computer maker Tiny's website (www.tinyonline.net) includes chess, backgammon and bowling as well as some children's games. It is these "slower pace" games that Hi2's sales and marketing director, Brad Burton, believes there is a massive audience for.

Tiny customers, who are largely first-time computer buyers, also influenced this decision. "It made sense to offer them games they are likely to be familiar with already," said John Campbell, Tiny's internet services manager.

However, within four weeks the company will also launch the next level of games within the Games Arena - 3D offerings including Quake II and III, Half Life and Counterstrike. After that, the third stage of this project will be to introduce a pay-per-game scheme. Tiny could not specify when this will happen but promised it will be some time before Christmas. "For us this is just stage one," Campbell emphasised.

The only requirement for participation in the games is membership to the forum. Already 700,000 subscribers have signed up to Tinyonline using the simple, free, registration process, said Campbell.

The games portal is available to anyone via a web browser, but the company also plans to preinstall access to it on all new computers.

Tiny's aim is to build community among its customers. Players can 'whisper' to each other as well as chat while they play games, and can also watch each other playing together via webcams. "People go online and end up making new friends through playing games more often than the other way around," commented Burton.