Viacom subsidiary MTV Networks announced its acquisition of social games developer Social Express, a purchase the company points out is its first step into the burgeoning social gaming space.
MTV Networks is currently developing social games based on original IPs, as well as on existing shows and characters from MTV, Nickelodeon, and other brands -- the company's portfolio includes over 150 channels and 400 digital media properties. It intends to introduce its first social game in the third quarter of 2010.
The firm plans to take advantage of Social Express' experience with this specific gaming segment to launch a publishing platform for independent game developers. MTV did not disclose when it expects to launch the platform or any other details about it, nor did it reveal any financial terms for its acquisition of the studio.
Based in San Francisco and founded last year, Social Express' management team includes former executives and developers from companies such as Apple, AOL, Yahoo, and Zynga. The studio will be integrated into Nickelodeon Digital, and will be positioned as "a key part" to the gaming unit's growth strategy.
The developer's co-founder and CEO Tony Espinoza will now work as Social Gaming vice president and general manager of the Nickelodeon Kids & Family Group, where he will oversee the division's social gaming strategy and development. Neil Souza, co-founder of Social Express and FoulPlay Media, will serve as VP of Technology and Social Games.
MTV Networks notes that its game sites -- AddictingGames.com, Shockwave.com, Nick.com Games, Nick.com Arcade, Neopets, GameTrailers, and Xfire -- attracted more than 22 million unique visitors last May. Other recent gaming initiatives from the Nickelodeon Kids & Family Group include its launches of an iPhone edition and a virtual goods platform for AddictingGames.
"Social gaming is one of the biggest drivers of the explosive growth in social media – it's fun, it's engaging, and it's shareable," says MTV Networks CEO and chairman Judy McGrath.
She adds, "Social Express brings us strong experience and know-how in this burgeoning space, which we'll supercharge with the IP and scale of Nickelodeon and other MTV Networks brands to create great new social gaming experiences for our fans and cool tools for independent developers as well."