Looking to extend its global mission of inspiring people to help the Earth, National Geographic has tossed its hat into the silicone arena, opening a dedicated division to reach increasingly video game-crazy kids and families.
Launched at the end of 2008, National Geographic Games has SVP Paul Levine at the helm. He wants to take advantage of NatGeo’s array of multi-platform resources and content that reaches some 400 million people a month worldwide. The six to 14 demo makes up a sizeable portion of this audience and, Levine adds, it’s a key target. ‘Kids in that age group are natural explorers and adventurers, especially between six and nine,’ he explains. ‘Every day they’re learning something new and games are a wonderful vehicle to engage them in that process.’
NGG now has a dedicated product team on board to manage developers to produce kid- and family-targeted Nintendo Wii and DS games. Thanks to previous work with Namco Bandai and Sony Computer Entertainment through National Geographic Ventures (which initially housed the gaming business along with mobile and maps), both gamecos are on board to publish upcoming titles developed by NGG. Its most recent is National Geographic: Panda from Namco, an E-rated virtual pet simulation for the Nintendo DS that hit shelves in Q4 2008 and lets players care and play with virtual pandas, while learning about the endangered animals.
Though it was too soon to talk about how well it performed at retail, Levine says it’s a prime example of the types of games that NGG wants to roll out. It incorporates NatGeo’s mission with fun, educational content, playing to the company’s strengths with animals, action, adventure, travel and learning. The game was also packaged with a bonus DVD called Secrets of the Wild Panda, drawn from the organization’s existing informational resources, and advertised in National Geographic magazine.
Levine is banking on NatGeo’s cross-marketing abilities to set NGG apart from the competition. He’ll also be looking at extending National Geographic Kids properties like Mama Mirabelle and Toot & Puddle onto gaming platforms, and he’s definitely open to opportunities with third-party IP.