MTV Sinking $500M In Games, Plans Licensed Iterations of Everything

MTV Networks will invest more than $500 million into the growing video game industry across the next two years. The proprietor of television broadcasts such as Newport Harbor, Pimp My Ride, Making The Band, Engaged and Underage, and My Super Sweet 16 now aspires to begin creating licensed video game tie-ins when new properties first appear in its programming plans instead of years down the line.

"We're putting well over $500 million behind building our games business across all of the brands in our portfolio," MTV chairman and chief executive Judy McGrath explained to Reuters. "I'd like to see more game applications on some of our current big brands across the music group."

While the company's involvement with Harmonix's original Guitar Hero (PS2) and its subsequent purchase of the developer have been seen as successful moves in the gaming market, especially given the hype backing the duo's upcoming Rock Band (PS3, X360), MTV's track record in the gaming market is spotty. The PlayStation 2, Xbox 360 and PSP title based off its Pimp My Ride property arrived in late 2006 to universally damning reviews.

The Devecka-developed MTV Drumscape arcade machine failed to take off at a time when the popularity of music games such as Konami's Dance Dance Revolution were taking gaming establishments by storm. The company also lent its name to the MTV Music Generator series of games, developed first by Jester and then by MixMax, which were released on the original PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and Xbox.

"Media companies are crazy trying to bring video game development in house," observed Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter. "They act like anyone can do this. The fact is not everyone can." Pachter had a similar reaction when he learned of Michael Bay's plans to direct his own game. "It's going to be very difficult," he said. "The skill set of a game maker is very different from the skill set of a graphic artist."

Then again, MTV owns a handful of respected game-oriented businesses beyond Harmonix, including Xfire, GameTrailers, and AddictingGames.com. The company is currently in the process of investigating several new business models for gaming, some of which include online casual games and the possibility of integrating other MTV-owned brands into Rock Band.

"It's hard to tell where it's going to go," noted MTV president of global digital media Mika Salmi. "It's in the consumers' hands to take it to the next level."