Gaming Roundup: GTA IV Downloads; Casual Games/Recession; Merscom/Lifetime; EA/G.I. Joe

imageThe Lost and Damned puts downloadable content in the spotlight: Xbox 360 owners will sink their teeth into a new chapter in Rockstar’s GTA franchise next week, when The Lost and Damned, an expansion pack for GTA IV, goes live; PS3 owners will get their own episode later this year. IDC analyst Billy Pidgeon told USA Today that the downloadable episode model will continue to gain ground with gamers, and that the shift will come at the expense of packaged, store-bought games — much like the shift to digital music and movie downloads stalled CD and DVD sales.

Real Games’ president talks recession: The casual games industry is maturing amidst a “financial tsunami” — but that doesn’t mean developers should start wringing their hands. John Barbour, the new-ish president of Real Networks’ Real Games, told Casual Connect conference attendees that now was the time to develop strong IP and get it distributed across as many channels as possible. Barbour also said publishers need to find ways to wring more money out of their free games — since “people losing their jobs will still want to play but can