MTVN Invests in Web Gaming

NEW YORK MTV Networks’ Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group plans to make a major commitment to the booming casual gaming space, as the company pledged to spend $100 million over the next two years to develop new games and gaming platforms.

That investment will lead to a host of new Web-based games (both of the subscription-based and advertising-supported variety), spanning several MTVN brands, including Nickelodeon Noggin and The N as well as the company’s pre-existing Web properties Shockwave, AddictingGames and Neopets. By early next year, for example, the company will roll out Nick Gaming Club, a subscription-based offering that will combine elements of virtual worlds and social networking, and, a destination site that MTVN said is the first casual/social gaming site aimed at teen girls.

Teens and kids are the ideal targets for this fast-growing Web segment, according to MTV executives. Casual games (i.e., games that are usually played in a Web browser, and usually for a shorter period of time than console or PC games) are being played in large numbers by most demographics. But according to MTVN, the vast majority of kids play games on the Web.

“Across all of MTVN’s online sites, gaming is an important original genre and we are committed to delivering fresh content to our audiences in all of our demos,” said Cyma Zarghami, president, Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group. “Particularly in the kids’ space, with more than 86 percent of kids 8 to 14 gaming online, we see great momentum for online casual gaming.”

Besides the kids and teen segments, MTVN is taking a bigger plunge into the virtual world arena via the young adult-targeted, which will introduce AddictingWorlds, described as a casual “massively multiplayer online game” or MMOG. Plus, pre-existing casual gaming hub is getting a facelift this fall, as MTVN plans to build stronger synergies between the site and its family-targeted properties such as Nick-at-Nite. The idea will be to serve more advertisers that wish to purchase inventory across platforms, said company executives.

Curiously, in the midst of all this change, MTVN is shifting the focus of Neopets, the popular virtual pet world it acquired in 2005. The site will become Neostudios, which will primarily serve as a development tool for future virtual worlds. Of course, Nickelodeon has already demonstrated success in the virtual world domain with this year’s launch of Nicktropolis, which will also be the beneficiary of the company’s new gaming investment, said executives.