Technology

PixelPlay Brings Atari, Hasbro to ITV

4/17/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

Software creator PixelPlay will produce ITV game versions of four classic Atari Inc. games and four Hasbro Inc. board games for its burgeoning digital set-top gaming business.

The Hasbro games are Scrabble, Yahtzee, Monopoly and Boggle, while the Atari lineup includes Centipede, Asteroids, Missile Command and Breakout.

“This agreement with Atari makes it possible for PixelPlay to provide the depth of recognizable brands necessary to broaden the subscription gaming packages for all of our network service providers,” said Ron Chaimowitz, CEO of PixelPlay, which provides games to Cablevision Systems Corp. and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network.

TETRIS FOR S-A

PixelPlay also said it had retained Zodiac Gaming to develop a single-player Scientific-Atlanta Inc. version of its ITV rendition of Tetris.

PixelPlay represents the combination of Play TV, which Chaimowitz founded, and Pixel Technologies. Chaimowitz is a longtime gaming executive: He founded GT Interactive Software, which went public in 1995.

He started Play TV in 2002, after selling another property, The Auction Channel, to Cablevision.

“I saw what they were doing with iO [Cablevision’s Interactive Optimum digital platform] and felt the digital set-top box was going to be the next platform for games,” he said.

With his content background, Chaimowitz started assembling a roster of titles.

“We wanted to license brands,” he said. “We felt consumers would gravitate more to well-established brands.”

In addition to the newly announced Hasbro and Atari deals, both of which are exclusive licenses, PixelPlay has exclusive licenses for Tribune Media’s Jumble brand, casual games from Real Arcade and games from Scholastic Inc. aimed at the preschool crowd.

PixelPlay is supplying Cablevision with Tetris and Asteroids for its recently launched pay-per-day gaming service, and will add two more games to that category: Centipede and Scrabble.

EchoStar and Canadian satellite platform Bell ExpressVu are carrying PixelPlay’s KidsWise pre-school service.

INTEREST AT SHOW

There was a great deal of MSO interest in games at the recent National Show in San Francisco, Chaimowitz reported.

“You’ll see more deals in the next 60 days,” he said.

Operators want to get ahead of any gaming offerings from their DBS competitors.

“We’re going through the technology-stabilization stage,” he said. “The main thing operators are focused on is making sure the service does not upset the network. They are more willing to take generic knockoff games.

“The next stage we’re starting to enter is a focus on branded content and single player content,” he added. “The killer application, we believe, is the multiplayer game within the walled garden, then the next stage of cross-platform multiplayer. It allows the MSOs to leverage the triple play against satellite.”

Consumers play against each other, via the digital set-top or a high-speed Internet connection.

PixelPlay uses its Jive technology to handle game play. For EchoStar, it broadcasts games from a carousel.

Because Cablevision set-tops have a Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification return path, subscribers play games off Jive technology on PixelPlay’s main server.

SET-TOPS WIDEN BASE

The digital set-top market brings in a different type of gamer than PC or console games, Chaimowitz said, including preschoolers, women and older baby boomers.

“This market is large in total numbers, and their per capita consumption is higher,” he said.

“In 2006, virtually every MSO will be launching game services.”

His company already is working on Open Cable Applications Platform versions of its games, he said, as MSOs make final middleware decisions.

“ITV in general is finally getting that buzz,” he said, and there has been discussion about cross-platform games.

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