MTV Networks Acquires Social Express, Forays Into Social Gaming

MTV Arcade/games

Hoping to refresh Nickelodeon Digital's offerings, MTV Networks on Thursday agreed to buy games developer Social Express. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. According to MTV, the acquisition marks its first entry into the popular social gaming space.

Per the deal, MTV Networks will develop social games based on original IP, as well as shows and characters from MTV, Nickelodeon and its other brands, with the first games expected to be introduced in the third quarter of the year.

MTV Networks also expected to leverage Social Express to launch a publishing platform for independent game developers.

Social Express will be integrated into Nickelodeon Digital, with Social Express co-founder and CEO Tony Espinoza overseeing social gaming strategy and development as vice president and general manager of social gaming for MTV Networks' Nickelodeon Kids & Family Group.

Neil Souza, co-founder of Social Express and FoulPlay Media, will be vice president of technology, social games.

Both will report to Dave Williams, senior vice president and general manager of games, Nickelodeon Kids & Family Group, who reports to Stephen Youngwood, executive vice president for Digital, Nickelodeon /MTVN Kids & Family Group.

"They are set to be a key part of our growth strategy," Youngwood said regarding Social Express and MTV's broader gaming strategy. In May, MTV Networks game sites attracted more than 22 million unique visitors and ranked as the number one destination in the online gaming category.

MTV Networks game sites include,, Games, Arcade, Neopets, GameTrailers, and Xfire.

The acquisition of Social Express is the latest gaming initiative for the Nickelodeon Kids & Family Group, which has also launched AddictingGames on the iPhone with the AG iNetwork and introduced a virtual goods platform to the site in the past year.

Based in San Francisco, Social Express's veteran management team boasts former executives and developers from Apple, AOL, Yahoo and Zynga.

Casual games are serious business these days. For one, they are believed to be largely responsible for continued traffic gains at Facebook. Over the past year, traffic to the social network increased 185% compared to the same week last year. As a result, Facebook surpassed Google in terms of overall traffic for the week ending March 13, according to Hitwise.

Perhaps in response, Google in April announced the acquisition of an Israeli startup named Labpixies, which develops casual games for both the Web and mobile devices. Terms of the deal were not released, but an Israeli news source reported that Google paid $25 million for the company.

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