NUON Maker Inks Activision Game Deal20 Jul, 2001 By: David Ward
Game publisher Activision will publish three games for the NUON interactive DVD platform under a new deal with VM Labs.
In VM Labs’ first deal involving a major game company, Activision willpublish NUON versions of Shanghai: Mah-Jongg Essentials for this holiday season and Star Trek: Invasion and Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure in early2002.
“Our partnership with VM Labs allows us to be a part of bringing quality video game entertainment to families of mainstream gamers,” David Anderson, Activision senior manager of business development and licensing, states. “Now we can appeal to a whole new market of consumers who are interested in playing games, but who may not own a dedicated gaming console.”
None of the three games are among Activision’s key franchises, which include Tony Hawk Pro Skater, Spiderman and Vigilante 8.
But VM Labs marketing v.p. Greg LaBrec says the games are ideal for the casual gaming market. “Those are the ones we wanted,” he says. “We feel that for a DVD player, these are going to be a lot more popular than games aimed at the (hard core gamer).” LaBrec added the deal provides options for releasingadditional Activision titles for NUON at a later date.
VM Labs has been making slow but steady progress in winning consumers to NUON DVD players, which provide added functions such as enhancedzoom, the ability to showcase additional behind the scenes movie content and the potential for Internet connectivity. Sources outside of VM Labs suggest that the small installed base for NUON machines by Toshiba andSamsung owes more to limits of supply than of demand. More importantly, VM Labs has been winning converts among retailers, who are looking forfeatures that will allow them to step consumers up from entry level DVD players.
“Best Buy is going to be our big retailer going into this Christmas,” LaBrec says. “They’ve got both [Toshiba and Samsung] players, racks for software and a whole NUON display, which is in most of their stores now.”
Until the Activision deal, VM Labs had struggled to leverage NUON’s game-playing ability, largely because of a lack of software. NUON hashad only a handful of game titles to date, including Monopoly, The Gameof Life, Space Invaders XL, Tempest 3000 and Merlin Racing. The problem has been getting traditional game publishers to commit resources to asystem aimed squarely at the very casual gamer.
The privately held VM Labs recently received bridge financing. At a Samsung press event in New York last week, executive v.p. and chiefoperating officer Paul Culberg indicated the company has retained technology-centric investment banker Wit Soundview to lead a new roundof funding to be completed this fall. Part of that money is expected to be used to get more game publishers and Hollywood studios on board.
All of this is bound to be good news for Toshiba and Samsung, both of which launched NUON-enhanced DVD players last year. Toshiba has yet to announce additional NUON models, although they have been privately telling retailers they plan to do so. Samsung this week announced itssecond model, the 705 ($249 suggested retail, $229 street price), and plans to bring NUON to Europe this fall, LaBrec says.