A few weeks after its younger sibling Nickelodeon said it would put up $100 million to develop casual gaming initiatives, MTV Networks unveiled plans to invest more than $500 million in video games over the next two years, Reuters reports. The investment is part of a change in global strategy, which has put a certain primacy to incorporating the development of games at the inception of all new programming proposals and not as an afterthought, the company says. While the article notes some cautionary views about whether large, often hidebound organizations as large as MTV can garner substantial returns on investing in gaming, MTV points to preliminary success with its existing properties such as Xfire, which helps connect players, GameTrailers, Neopets.com and virtual world Nicktropolis.
The first big test of MTV’s gaming plans is the release of Rock Band, which was developed by MTVN’s Harmonix division and will be sold in stores starting this fall for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PS3 console game systems. Mika Salmi, MTVN’s president of Global Digital Media and the person heading its gaming moves, said he is well aware of the delicate balance between tying its gaming and programming content closely together. But he and MTV CEO Judy McGrath say they are wholeheartedly embracing the uncertainty of the situation. “It’s hard to tell where it’s going to go,” said Salmi, who was the head of Atom when Viacom purchased it. “It’s in the consumers’ hands to take it to the next level.”