MTV Networks has acquired Social Express, a San Francisco-based social gaming development startup, which the programmer expects to integrate into its Nickelodeon Digital group and use to launch "social games" for MTV, Nickelodeon and other brands.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
MTVN said it will develop social games based on Social Express' original intellectual property, as well as shows and characters from MTV, Nickelodeon and its other brands, with the first game to be introduced in the third quarter of 2010. In addition, the Viacom unit said it plans to launch a publishing platform for independent game developers based on the Social Express platform.
Social Express, which has 10 employees, was founded in 2009 by Tony Espinoza and Neil Souza, both formerly of online-game company Zynga.
"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," MTVN chairman and CEO Judy McGrath said in a statement. "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."
Social Express will be integrated into Nickelodeon Digital, with Social Express CEO Espinoza overseeing social gaming strategy and development as vice president and general manager of social gaming for MTV Networks' Nickelodeon Kids & Family Group. Souza will be vice president of technology for social games. Both will report to Dave Williams, senior vice resident and general manager of games for Nickelodeon Kids & Family Group, who reports to Stephen Youngwood, executive vice president for digital, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids & Family Group.
In May, MTVN's game sites attracted more than 22 million unique visitors and ranked as the number one destination in the online gaming category, according to measurement firm comScore. Its game sites include AddictingGames.com, Shockwave.com, Nick.com Games, Nick.com Arcade, Neopets, GameTrailers and Xfire.