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Vivendi launches assault on mobile market

Former I-Play exec to lead new mobile division

As the mobile gaming market continues to attract interest from major videogame publishers, Vivendi Universal Games has announced plans to establish its own dedicated wireless division for both licensed and original games based on Vivendi IP.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, VUG's Paul Maglione discussed the company's wireless ambitions and how Vivendi intends to compete in the rapidly expanding and increasingly competitive mobile market.

Maglione, who recently served as VP of publishing and marketing for UK-based wireless games provider I-Play, has a wealth of experience in the mobile sector, and projects significant growth for the market, particularly in light of industry powerhouse EA's 'stamp of approval' on wireless gaming, with its recent acquisition of Jamdat.

"It's a huge vote of confidence for mobile games in general. I mean, it is not only a big acquisition, but it's the biggest EA has ever made. And if they were willing to put that kind of money on the table, it means they think this platform is here to stay," Maglione stated in the interview.

Insisting that the timing of Vivendi's determined move into the wireless space was purely coincidental, Maglione said that the planning for this sort of venture had been going on for some time, parent company Vivendi Universal holding numerous divisions with an interest in the wireless market.

"These last five years, our mother company has become extremely keen on mobile across all our divisions - not just with VUG but also SFR, which is one of the leading European wireless network carriers; Universal Music, which is the most active music company in mobile music; and the Canal+ Group, which is doing a lot of things in mobile TV. So there's a wider corporate focus on mobile which fits VUG very nicely."

VUG Mobile intends to focus on in-house development, capping external studio development to a maximum of forty per cent of its games portfolio. In terms of porting its games to the multitude of different handsets available, VUG has developed proprietary porting technology which Maglione believes will drastically reduce the normally high costs involved in ensuring compatibility with an extensive range of handsets.

The company intends to release a dozen titles in 2006, beginning with last week's launch of Empire Earth Mobile, and the company is keen to adapt its portfolio of popular franchises, such as Crash Bandicoot, SWAT, Spyro and more, to create 3D mobile games with the possibility of connected and multiplayer titles in the near future. Maglione also hinted at possible acquisition deals, both from additional videogames publishers looking to step into the mobile market, and potentially from VUG itself.

"The EA-Jamdat move is the first major acquisition of a pure-play publisher by a console games publisher and, if you look around, I think you'll see other pure-play publishers who could be acquired over the next 12 months - I think at least some of those will attract the attention of the large console publishers."

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