At next month's E3 gaming expo, gamers will be eagerly awaiting a preview of the latest installment in Electronic Arts Inc.' top-selling videogame franchise, Madden NFL 10. But for those who don't want to shell out about $60 for it, there's another option: Quick Hit Football.

Made by online sports gaming company Quick Hit Inc., Quick Hit Football doesn't have any NFL teams, players' names or images in its game. But it doesn't require a console — such as an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 — to play. Another difference: it's free.

Like Quick Hit Football, other free online sports games are increasingly popping up and competing with established sports video game franchises from EA, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.'s 2K Games and other big companies.

While free online games are often casual fare with simple premises and graphics, a new generation of games coming out now has console-like graphics and more involved game play.

Quick Hit plans to launch its browser-based football game by September. In April, Internet entertainment company OnNet USA Inc. launched free online baseball game MLB Dugout Heroes and also struck a deal with Major League Baseball Advanced Media LP for use of its MLB teams and ballparks.

Last October, San Francisco-based World Golf Tour Inc. also launched a free, browser-based golf game that has virtual versions of real-life golf courses created from high-definition photographs for gamers to play.

These free online sports games are gaining traction, especially amid the recession as consumers pinch their pennies.

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