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USA Puts Its Characters In Online Game 'Lounge'

12/02/2007 7:00 PM Eastern

Ever wanted to take a whack at a one-time lover or match wits with TV detective Adrian Monk? USA Network.com has an online video game now waiting for you.

The network has rolled out 30 original games based on characters from its original series under the “USA Character Game Lounge” moniker. The effort tries to carve out a slice of the growing casual gaming pie, which is estimated to generate $2.25 billion worldwide in revenue this year from more than 200 million users, according to the Seattle-based Casual Games Association.

As part of its www.usagamelounge.com online service, USA Network has teamed with WeeWorld, a London-based company that tries to personalize Web experiences, to allow users to create personal avatars called “WeeMees” to use on the Web site, according to USA Network senior vice president of marketing and brand strategy Chris McCumber.

USA will also work with WeeWorld, the London-based owner of WeeMee, to integrate the company's technology into future gameplay. WeeMees are able to move across different types of digital content, from Web sites (that may look like a game “lounge”), to blog postings to instant messages. In this case, the cable channel will give users the ability to create their WeeMee in the image of their favorite USA Network character.

McCumber said the Character Game Lounge is an outgrowth of the network's overall success with online games over the past two years. Games such as “Monk Mind Game,” in which users have to match pairs of similar images while being timed, represent 25% of all traffic to usanetwork.com and have helped the site average 1.25 million unique users a month in 2007. That is an 80% increase against last year, according to USA executives.

McCumber said the games serve not only as a fun offering for usanetwork.com visitors, but also as a promotional tool for its original series. The creation of “WeeMee” characters also fits in with the network's “Characters Welcome” brand-identification campaign.

“Over the past two years, usanetwork.com has had great success with original series-themed and advertiser-integrated casual games,” said McCumber. “Now, USA is capitalizing on this growing sector by making a strategic commitment to this mass-appeal genre.”

The network will look to add more games in the near future, as well, he said. The world market for these games should jump 20% a year, beginning in 2008, according to the Casual Games Association.

To that end, McCumber said the network has signed closeout retailer Big Lots as a charter sponsor for the The USA Character Game Lounge, although he would not reveal financial terms. As part of its sponsorship, Big Lots will support an online sweepstakes that will net one winner $10,000

USA Network-based games on the site include a Law & Order Criminal Intent game in which players have to collect clues to solve a crime; a Burn Notice-based, scavenger hunt-oriented game and trivia games based on The 4400, Psych and WWE Monday Night Raw.

Non network-related games include “Sky Writer,” a word based text twister; and “Wack An Ex,” in which users can use a hammer to smack the heads of characters representing former lovers as they pop up out of several holes.

The USA gaming venture comes on the heels of a recent Lifetime Networks deal with RealArcade, a dvision of Real Networks, to offer more than 50 casual games beginning in second quarter 2008 as part of its newly-created Lifetime Games Club at www.mylifetime.com.

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