ESPN to Launch Branded Sports Games This Fall

espnpicThe sports-media powerhouse ESPN has announced a deal with social game publisher Playdom to develop branded sports games for the web and major social networks like Facebook and MySpace. These games are set to launch in Fall of 2010 and we expect branded sports entertainment and gaming to become more prevalent especially as other strong players like EA look to fill the void in the sports genre. Read more after the jump.

Only game has been announced so far, and will be called ESPN U-Ville where players will be able to create their own college sports franchise in a suspected Sim City-like environment. Playdom will be providing a list of services that are apparently attractive to ESPN and we expect more brand and IP companies to strike deals with game publishers in the times to come.

“Our deal with Playdom marks ESPN’s first major presence into the social gaming space,” said Raphael Poplock, vice president, games and revenue strategy and development for ESPN Digital Media, in a statement. “The sports genre for this category of games has gone virtually untapped thus far, and through this agreement, we have an opportunity to be in front of a highly engaged audience and at the forefront of what is currently the fastest growing games category out there.”

As the social gaming industry matures, companies with well known IP and brands can now strategically and carefully move onto social platforms, having learned from the market, to create deeply engaging experiences. Social games help create additional revenue channels through the sales of virtual goods as well as increase brand equity. This is in alignment with Facebook’s long term vision as the key viral channel on Facebook has been muted. The key is to enable fans to connect with their friends around passions empowered by the brands, such as college sports in the case of ESPN.

ESPN is also looking to establish presence in the location-based space and is releasing its app called ‘ESPN Passport’ that will allow users to check in to various sports events and submit photos. We look forward to checking out the fall releases of their two games and see how ESPN’s competitors respond.

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