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The MSN Gaming Zone is an online play service and website where you could play Midtown Madness 1 and 2, using the chat rooms hosted by a company, which is MSN. Support for multiplayer gaming via IP address, serial cable, and analogue modem is built-in. Additionally, the game’s multiplayer menu includes a link to the MSN Gaming Zone, which offered Midtown Madness 2 lobbies until June 19, 2006, when support for the game and the CD-ROM Matchmaking service was discontinued. Similar online gaming sites still support multiplayer gaming and also through instant messenger clients. Multiplayer clients use Midtown Madness 2's built-in DirectPlay support to launch and manage multiplayer sessions. The player could also choose to drive in Muiliplayer featuring a Hong Kong Route.

ControversyEdit

MSN Games announced in early 2006 the retiring of support for all lobby-based CD-ROM games, chat lobbies, the ZoneFriends client and the Member Plus program, scheduled for June 19, 2006.

"As of June 19, 2006, we will be retiring our CD-ROM matchmaking service, along with the original versions of several classic card and board games: Classic Backgammon, Bridge, Classic Checkers, Chess, Cribbage, Euchre, Go, Classic Hearts, Reversi, and Spades. We’ll be sad to see them go! These games are like old friends: they gave us our start, and helped us grow from an innovative little entertainment site to a truly stellar online gaming experience. But over the years, it’s become more and more difficult to maintain the aging hardware and software that supports them. We held out absolutely as long as we could, but it was finally time to make that decision." -MSN Gaming Zone.

In a series of public chats held with various administrators and developers of the Zone, MSN outlined its plan to shift its gaming environment into Windows Live Messenger, a more frequently updated client than the outdated ZoneFriends messenger used on the Zone. However, due primarily to MSN's inability to provide a timeframe for the expected replacement of chat lobbies, tournaments, and its Member Plus volunteer moderator program, thousands of players appeared at each session to express their discontent, and began an online petition in an attempt to stop MSN's scheduled changes. As with previous changes, however, MSN has continued to stand firm in its commitment to the retirement of its services, citing outdated hardware and lack of economic viability for the old products.

Although alternatives exist to the Zone for CD-ROM gameplay, many Microsoft game studios embedded Zone links and functionality into their games, including Angel Studios' Midtown Madness and Ensemble Studios' Age of Empires game series. Ensemble only began their switch to an in-game matchmaking system with the release of Age of Mythology Age of Mythology.

Games as recent as Flight Simulator 98, and Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds utilized the Zone's lobby system for matchmaking. For many such games, no replacement service has been announced. The first game in the Flight Simulator series to use in-game matchmaking is Flight Simulator X, released early 2007, leaving a gap of several months without MSN supported matchmaking services.

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