MTV to invest more than $500 million in games

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MTV Networks said Thursday that it will invest more than $500 million into the expansion of its gaming businesses worldwide in the next two years.

The Viacom unit cited growth and record traffic in several of its gaming properties in June and July for its plans to expand in the areas of online and mobile casual games geared toward women, young adults and kids as well as console and hand-held games catering to kids, young adults and the male demographic. MTVN also said that it will provide more media coverage and editorial content centering on gaming through its broadband video aggregator GameTrailers.

Specifically, MTVN noted its success with game-related content on Nickarcade.com, Neopets, Shockwave and AddictingGames in addition to the popularity of casual game sections on such MTVN-branded sites as CMT.com and Comedy¬Cental.com.

Its upcoming release of "Rock Band" in the fall is one of MTVN's initial efforts under the expansion. Developed through its Harmonix division in partnership with Electronic Arts, the game is designed for Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3.

"Gaming is a focal point of our vertical-entertainment strategy to superserve our loyal and passionate audiences with engaging experiences," MTVN chairman and CEO Judy McGrath said. "The success of all our properties -- everything from AddictingGames to the virtual games on Nicktropolis to the award-winning 'Rock Band' -- really has put us in a leadership position."

While last month's announcement that MTVN Nickelodeon Kids & Family Group was committing $100 million to the development and distribution of casual gaming titles and sites is part of the overall expansion, the MTVN division on Thursday also announced a deal between its casual gaming site Shockwave and Nokia to deliver Shockwave's portfolio of Flash Lite mini games to consumers in 24 markets.

Across all its game-related Web sites, MTVN cited more than 42 million unique visitors globally in June, up 20% in the first half, according to comScore Media Metrix.
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