Nick games push hardly casual

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Nickelodeon is investing $100 million in the expansion of online casual gaming ventures, the company said Wednesday.

The commitment made by the Viacom unit will go toward massive multiplayer online games, virtual worlds and self-published gaming titles during the next two years.

The announcement was made by Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group president Cyma Zarghami and was highlighted at the Casual Connect gaming conference in Seattle during a keynote address by Steve Youngwood, executive vp digital media.

"Particularly in the kids space, with more than 86% of kids 8-14 gaming online, we see great momentum for online casual gaming," Zarghami said. "This investment will not only benefit our audiences but also our marketing and distribution partners."

Included in the Nickelodeon initiative is myNoggin, a preschool educational game in the form of a subscription service; an expansion of the Nicktropolis multiplayer games franchise; Nick Gaming Club, Nickelodeon's first subscription offering featuring multiplayer games with 3-D avatars; the-NGames.com, a casual gaming site geared toward female teens; and the transformation of the site Neopets.com to NeoStudios, a property centering on the creation of new online virtual world experiences.

According to "Casual Games 2007 Report" by the Casual Games Assn., investors last year spent more than $200 million to acquire interest in casual game industry assets. The report noted the investment of more than $35 million in MMO games and a broadening of the casual gaming audience. Women remain the largest demographic involved in casual gaming, at 74%, the report said.
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