Softbank Corp. is opening an online game portal in an effort to boost the number of subscribers to its broadband service, the Japanese Internet company said Thursday.

BB Games will open July 25 with about 30 online games that can be played on personal computers. The offerings will grow to about 200 by April 2004, Softbank said.

The Tokyo-based company, which co-owns Yahoo Japan with Yahoo! of the United States, has been concentrating on building its Yahoo! BB broadband service, which now has nearly 2.7 million subscribers.

“This will make Yahoo! BB more fun and help differentiate it from the competition,” Softbank founder and president Masayoshi Son told reporters. “It’s a big plus for Yahoo! BB.”

The online games will include hits such as “Ragnarok” and “Lineage” from South Korean companies that Softbank holds stakes in. Online games are wildly popular in South Korea, where broadband proliferation is the highest in the world, at about 70 percent.

The BB Games portal is also being billed as an advantage for game makers seeking a single promotion and billing method. BB Games will take a portion of the fees charged to online gamers.

Son said the list of titles will include Japanese games and that pricing will be announced July 25.

The makers of video-game machines such as Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox are also trying to woo online gamers.

The number of online gamers in Japan totals about 500,000, but that’s expected to grow, Softbank officials said. More than 10 million people are estimated to have broadband Internet connections in Japan.

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