News

Games On for Nets

3/21/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Cable networks got game last week as Nickelodeon, Sci Fi Channel and Lifetime all announced casual game initiatives for the Web.

Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group said it will add 1,600 new video games to its digital gaming portfolio throughout the year. The new games, which will include 600 exclusive, Nick-branded titles from such shows as iCarly and SpongeBob SquarePants, will add to the 5,000 games currently offered through Nick's original and acquired gaming sites including Nickjr.com, Nick.com, Neopets.com, AddictingGames.com, The N.com and Shockwave.com.

Stephen Youngwood, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group executive vice president of digital, said the network hopes the games will help the group improve on the 22.2 billion game plays the sites generated in 2007. The sites drew 20 million gamers in January, representing 80% of all traffic to Nick owned and operated sites.

“If you look at our audience — which ranges from pre-schoolers to parents — gaming is the No. 1 thing from an entertainment perspective online,” Youngblood said. “So if we're to be relevant to this audience, we have to make sure we're offering content that they want.”

For science fiction fans and tech geeks, Sci Fi Channel will provide its owning gaming area on scifi.com beginning in April. Part of the site will feature blogs on information relevant to the gamer lifestyle.

For those who want in on the action, the network will also debut next month a game center, where users can play classic games like Asteroids and new games based on Sci Fi shows, Sci Fi digital senior vice president Craig Engler said.

Battlestar Galactica fans can also experience life as a Cylon in a new social game. After choosing to participate as a Cylon or a human, players will be able to engage the enemy and attempt to accrue points for their respective teams through online games and challenges. The social gaming event will continue throughout Battlestar's fourth and final season, which launches April 4.

Sci Fi is hoping to attract blue chip advertisers to sponsor the games, and Engler said the network is in talks with a number of third-party game manufactures to partner in the development of future games.

Engler believes the network's gaming initiative could boost the site's average 30 million page views by 50% within six months.

“Science fiction and gaming have been linked since day one,” Engler said. “With a larger base of people able to play browser-based games and greater advertiser interest in the category, there's more demand for us to create games.”

With more and more women playing casual games online, Lifetime Games last week announced the launch a premium downloadable game with a fashion focus.

With 48 levels of play, the $19.95 “Fashion Solitaire” game allows users to express their styles and tastes by marrying raiment to models, creating their own outfits and trends.

A similar game based on the Lifetime vampire drama series Blood Ties sold some 50,000 units since its launch in January, according to Lifetime officials.

On the satellite side, DirecTV has enlisted the services of veteran gameshow host Pat Sajack to help market its one-year old Game Lounge service.

DirecTV will be the exclusive distributor of Pat Sajak Games' interactive version of Code Letter Crossword Connections, a game that combines Sajak's patent-pending Code Letter system with a traditional crossword puzzle, according to Steven Roberts, DirecTV senior vice president of new media and business development.

Roberts said DirecTV has signed up more than 135,000 subscribers with interactive boxes to its $5.95 per month service, which offers such casual games as Monopoly, Slingo, Scrabble, Solitaire and poker. But through a major marketing push that began last December and will run throughout the year, Roberts expects the Game Lounge subscriber base to approach 200,000 users by the end of the year.

September