Virgin chairman Richard Branson yesterday announced plans for an iTunes style service for downloading PC games, to be introduced later this year.

The service, which will be called A World of My Own (AWOMO), is a joint project between Virgin Games and Game Domain International.

Though Virgin will face competition in this market from sites such as Direct2Drive, it hopes to differentiate itself by offering faster download speeds, greater security measures, and an easier to use interface.

Rather than downloading large files, it says users of AWOMO will be able to take advantage of streaming technology to start games almost instantly.

Tournaments will also be on offer to gamers, with cash prizes on offer and even, according to the site, a trip to the moon.

From the point of view of publishers of games, AWOMO is attractive as the streaming technology eliminates the threat of piracy.

Branson believes AWOMO will become the gaming equivalent of iTunes:

“This is a really exciting development for us, as it gives us the opportunity to do for PC Games what iTunes has done for music. The GDI technology will revolutionize how the mass market will play games, and will give them more choice for less money.”

In its ‘second phase’, AWOMO will develop into an interactive environment in the style of Second Life, with similar opportunities on offer for marketers.

The service is due to launch in March 2007, with negotiations underway with major games publishers.