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NBCUniversal spinning up mobile games division

Former Disney mobile games leader Chris Heatherly to lead a new mobile game and virtual reality publishing group

As the mobile market continues to boom and the nascent virtual reality space becomes a larger sector within mobile thanks to devices like Samsung Gear and Google Daydream, NBCUniversal is aiming to leverage its bevy of popular IP such as Fast & Furious, Minions, Despicable Me, Jurassic World and more. According to GamesBeat, the company has hired former Disney mobile games leader Chris Heatherly to oversee a new mobile game and virtual reality publishing group.

The goal is to leverage properties from DreamWorks Animation, Illumination Entertainment, and Universal Pictures by directly getting involved in the creation, development, marketing and distribution of games as opposed to licensing out brands, which has been done previously. For example, Despicable Me had been licensed to Gameloft, and the publisher's Minion Rush game went on to be downloaded more than 800 million times. While self-publishing is now a focus, the company said it will still complement its business by licensing some brands as well.

"Universal has decided to take a strategic position in games," Heatherly said. "We are pushing heavily in the digital space. And they see there is no bigger digital space than games. It's part of a larger plan to build evergreen franchises that support multiple products across multiple businesses."

Heatherly will serve as executive vice president of games and digital platforms within Universal Brand Development, and he will be joined by James Molinets, senior vice president of production; Timothy FitzRandolph, vice president of creative; and Fabian Schonholz, senior vice president of technology and operations. The former two executives were key members of the Disney mobile team and also oversaw the kids-focused virtual world, Club Penguin.

While NBCUniversal said it's going to be 80% focused on creating mobile games, interest in VR as an "emerging area" is building as well. "We are leveraging the best talent that is already out there... On the VR front, we are doing quite a few things. One of them we can announce soon," he teased.

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