Mr. Softy has a suggestion for online chatters -- while you're gossiping with your best buddy about the creepy new substitute teacher at school through MSN Messenger, why not consider playing some awesome games? For a price, of course.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) laid out plans to make some money off instant messengers in the U.S. (a subscription strategy has been launched in Korea). Users equipped with either MSN Messenger 6.1 -- or the new 6.2 version -- will be able to subscribe to the MSN Instant Games Clubhouse for frivolous competition in several classic games.

There's UPWORDS from Hasbro (NYSE:HAS), Wheel of Fortune courtesy of Sony (NYSE:SNE), and versions of chess and pool. There are some cool features, such as the option to save that heated chess battle in progress (as well as replay a particularly intelligent maneuver), use of the Encarta dictionary during Upwords, statistical record-keeping, and the ability to video-conference while in the throes of competition, a benefit courtesy of Logitech (NASDAQ:LOGI). MSN Messenger has offered cost-free games, but this time, Microsoft is hoping that people will be willing to pay due to the addition of new, high-profile products.

Let's face it: Communication has entered a new zeitgeist in the form of instant messaging. Legions of messages are exchanged every single day; to the youths who make up the Internet generation, it is becoming as second- nature as watching television or using the telephone. Businesses are using it to increase efficiencies, and it is right behind email in killer-app status. Any time a fee can be added to a device that is not only simple to use, but also ubiquitous and relevant to the consumer masses, profit potential is sure to follow down the road.

Microsoft isn't the first company to embed free or premium gaming abilities in IM platforms, as the concept has been explored by Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) America Online and Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO). It is a safe bet that fee-based services will continue to be added to these online applications.

Except for chess -- which is a little cheaper -- each MSN Messenger game has a monthly cost of $4.99 (people also have the option of a special introductory price of $14.99 for a year's worth of a game), which seems relatively affordable. But one has to wonder how many online premium services a user can commit to; at some point, a person has to say no to any more subscriptions. There is a multitude of options out there, especially for the more hardcore gamer, such as Microsoft's own Xbox Online offering, but the useful element of the MSN Messenger games is the surety that it will attract a broader demographic.

With hundreds of millions of IM users out there, an opportunity exists for companies to coin a lot of cash if the gaming catches on. And the opportunity for Microsoft to continue exploring ways to reduce its reliance on its operating-system monopoly cannot be argued against (hey, note to Gates: Let's get Monopoly on IM).

David Gardner has recommended both Time Warner and Hasbro for Motley Fool Stock Advisor subscribers. Check the newsletter out, risk-free, for six months to see which other investment ideas David has highlighted.

Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned here.