National Geographic Launches Gaming Division, Appears to be Bringing Afrika Stateside!

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OK, I’m about to scream out like a little girl right now. Buried deep down in my inbox loaded with press releases, I discovered this one from National Geographic. National Geographic has now formed a videogame division — appropriately called National Geographic Games — dedicated to creating family-friendly games across major platforms including Wii, DS, PS3, PSN, PC and mobile devices. That in and of itself is pretty cool to see. I’m a fan of watching nature specials and animal shows, so this type of thing interests me. But what’s even more exciting is the apparent confirmation of a North American translation of Sony’s PS3-exclusive safari sim Afrika.

Three pieces of evidence seem to clearly confirm this. First, National Geographic Games has setup partnerships with Sony Computer Entertainment (and Namco Bandai on the recent DS game National Geographic: Panda). Second, the press release lists a game as coming out this month in its partnership with Sony titled National Geographic: Africa. And third, if you’ve watched all the previous trailers like I have you’ll have seen that Afrika is National Geographic branded. Let’s put all that together. A game about Africa from Sony with National Geographic branding… yep, that sure sounds like Afrika to me! It also seems likely that a PSN download release will be the form of distribution given how NGG specifically points out PSN as a platform and the fact that they list the game as coming out this month. It’d be hard to spring a retail launch on such short notice.

I’m reaching out to National Geographic Games to get official confirmation on all this and will report back if I hear anything. For now feel free to read through the full press release below.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC LAUNCHES GAMES DIVISION

Namco Bandai and Sony Computer Entertainment Partner with National Geographic to Publish Family-friendly Games Across Major Gaming Console, Handheld, Online and Mobile Platforms

WASHINGTON (Nov. 18, 2008)—Ted Prince, chief operating officer of National Geographic Ventures (NGV) and executive vice president of operations for National Geographic Global Media (NGGM), today announced the formation of National Geographic Games (NGG), a division that will publish and develop games across major gaming console, handheld, online and mobile platforms.

NGG will work with premier game publishers and developers to create fun, high-quality games based on National Geographic’s core themes and media properties to extend National Geographic’s mission of inspiring people to care about the planet and reach a new generation of consumers and families.

NGG is led by a team of industry veterans who will use all of National Geographic’s talent, assets and resources from across Mission Programs, Television, Entertainment and Publishing to carve a unique leadership position in the market. Paul Levine, senior vice president, extended platforms group, NGV, and senior vice president, corporate strategy and development, NGGM, will lead the new division as well as NGV’s Maps and Mobile businesses. Chris Mate, former Take2 Interactive and Bethesda Softworks executive, with more than 25 years’ experience, has joined as vice president and general manager for NGG and will oversee and manage the group’s daily global operations.

“The launch of our games division furthers National Geographic Venture’s cross-platform strategy of creating and distributing unique consumer experiences and content on multiple platforms and devices,” said Prince. “Paul’s strong background in cross-platform media, interactive entertainment and business building and development combined with Chris’ expertise in the video game industry and product development will ensure that National Geographic Games extends our mission globally and makes the National Geographic brand more meaningful to a broader audience.”

NGG also announced it has partnered with Namco Bandai Games America and Sony Computer Entertainment to publish and distribute globally National Geographic-branded titles on major gaming consoles and handheld devices, including the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS handheld, PlayStation 3 and PS3 Network, PCs and mobile devices such as the iPhone.

“National Geographic Games has brought authenticity to the kind of family gaming we’re developing with them,” said Andrew Lelchuk, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Namco Bandai Games America Inc. “Our collaboration is enabling us to tailor the content, so we can offer games to our customers that are relevant, entertaining and that bring a unique experience only the National Geographic brand can deliver.”

To further celebrate the launch of NGG, National Geographic is introducing “Herod’s Lost Tomb,” its first game produced in-house, which highlights content from the December 2008 issue of National Geographic magazine as well as its National Geographic Channel feature broadcast on the biblical figure King Herod, architect of the ancient world. The game will be available online in both a flash version for free at nationalgeographic.com/channel and a downloadable game for PC, Mac and iPhone that includes full features and high production content.

“By leveraging National Geographic’s leading family brand, core themes and franchises, and its unique content that drives our mission-forward strategy, NGG will create fun games that allow gamers of all ages to experience and explore their world through play,” said Levine. “Our global audiences love to play games, and we plan on creating games in-house as well as working with leading global publishers to develop entertaining games that engage those audiences in a relevant way.”

National Geographic Games Release Schedule:

November 2008

* “National Geographic — Herod’s Lost Tomb”

* Namco Bandai — “National Geographic: Panda”

* Sony — “National Geographic: Africa”

December 2008

* National Geographic — “Sudoku Traveler: China”

2009

* National Geographic — “Rain Forests”

* National Geographic — “Greencity”

* National Geographic — “From the Bottom Up”

About National Geographic Ventures
National Geographic Ventures (NGV) is a wholly owned, taxable subsidiary of National Geographic Society, one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations in the world. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the National Geographic Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. NGV, part of the editorial group National Geographic Global Media, includes National Geographic Television (NGT) production and distribution, National Geographic Television International, Digital Media (including Nationalgeographic.com) and National Geographic Extended Platforms Group, comprising the Mobile, Gaming and Maps business groups. NGV creates and distributes content across multi-platforms and media providing outlets for the hundreds of scientific and expedition-based grants awarded each year. For more information, go to www.nationalgeographic.com.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!