It’s not just indie companies like ngmoco or Zynga trying to grab a slice of the mobile gaming market — TV networks like *Disney*, *ESPN* and Nickelodeon have all recently made aggressive moves into the space. Nickelodeon just launched the AddictingGames iNetwork, a mobile offshoot of its AddictingGames.com casual games portal. The iPhone- and iTouch-based network will feature games based on properties from Nickelodeon and its MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA) siblings like Comedy Central.
Meanwhile, ESPN (NYSE: DIS) has upgraded its entire casual games roster at ESPN Arcade; VP of games Raphael Poplock said the sports network was focused on developing iPhone versions of the games, with expansions to other mobile platforms (as well as devices like the Nintendo DS) coming later.
The networks have a number of advantages over indie mobile game developers: They have budgets big enough to fund well-coded apps that should deliver a premium user experience (which lends to a game’s virality). They can also leverage the existing audiences for their franchises; it should be much easier for ESPN to get people to download its ESPN Zoom: Freeze Frame hidden objects game for the iPhone, for example, if they’ve already liked it online. The networks also have stronger ties to brand advertisers, meaning they can offer a greater variety of free games, while still monetizing the users.
ESPN and Nickelodeon’s efforts come about a month after Disney announced that it had eight mobile games based on franchises like Hannah Montana and Toy Story slated for release this year (per MobileEntertainment.biz). Disney’s offering is the most comprehensive in terms of platforms, since many of the games will run on the iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Java/Brew; Nickelodeon’s AddictingGames iNetwork is open to third-party developers though, meaning a creative team with just one game can potentially gain much more exposure by being part of it (without having to spend thousands of dollars per day on promotion).