MTV Networks buys social game company

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Viacom subsidiary MTV Networks took its first steps into the social gaming world with the purchase of startup developer Social Express.

The media giant announced that it would be using Social Express to build social games based on original intellectual property, and on characters from its Nickelodeon, MTV, and other brands. MTV also said it would use Social Express to launch a publishing platform for indie game developers.

“Social gaming is one of the biggest drivers of the explosive growth in social media,” said MTV Networks CEO Judy McGrath in a statement. “Social Express brings us strong experience and know-how in this burgeoning space, which we’ll supercharge with the intellectual property and scale of [our] brands.”

Social Express is barely a year old, and has a staff of 10. The startup was founded by Tony Espinoza, co-founder of developer SuperSecret, and Neil Souza, former developer from Zynga.

Acquisition talks began after Social Express approached MTV about the possibility of building games around its intellectual properties, according to VentureBeat. With the acquisition, Social Express will be folded into MTV’s existing Nickelodeon Digital team.

The first MTV social games are scheduled to be released in the third quarter of 2010.