ESPN adding video games to Web site

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ESPN.com has launched a new video game section to further embrace the gaming culture of male sports fans.

ESPN Arcade, created in collaboration with leading casual game and advergame developer Skyworks, offers more than 40 free casual games that range from such sports titles as Ice Hockey and Slam Dunk to such card and puzzle games as Spades and Sudoku and such board games as chess and checkers.

"Gaming is an important and fast-growing part of a fan's connection to sports," ESPN Enterprises vp gaming Raphael Poplock said. "The ESPN Arcade is the latest addition to ESPN's array of gaming initiatives -- casual online games now join fantasy games, innovative content integration within console games, and news, information and reviews -- all to provide sports fans with interactive connections to sports."

Games in the ESPN Arcade are free and developed by Skyworks. The new section will be fully advertising-supported; at launch, sports games will be brought to fans by the U.S. Marines, among other advertisers. All ESPN Arcade games are available to play online, with no download, and require only Flash or Shockwave.

ESPN Arcade also will have built-in competitive and online community features, including comprehensive individual and game-specific leaderboards and high scores, a system that allows players to earn and accumulate trophies, and in-game chat in some titles.

Online casual gaming is growing, with 80 million-100 million monthly online gamers in the U.S. alone. On average, the active male gamer will spend 12 hours per week playing online; in total, online casual games engage consumers for 16 billion monthly minutes according to comScore Media Metrix.

ESPNVideoGames.com has served as a hub for athlete interviews and sports game news since the fall. Sports video games account for roughly one-quarter of annual video game sales in North America.

In addition, ESPN has partnered with leading sports video game publisher Electronic Arts to integrate ESPN programming and anchors into such hit games as "Madden NFL 08," "NBA Live 08," "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08," "NCAA Football 08" and "NASCAR 08."

As part of the partnership, ESPNVideoGames.com posts original video and online interviews with such EA Sports cover athletes as Vince Young, Gilbert Arenas and Eric Staal. The site also uses EA Sports' game engines to simulate such sports events as the NBA Finals, NFL regular-season and playoff games and PGA Tour events.
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