Broadcaster to unveil new games strategy at Edinburgh? UPDATE: the BBC responds

BBC to get back into games development?

The BBC plans to ‘beef up’ its strategy for gaming and return to games development, according to a report in Scotland on Sunday, with the first word about the corporation’s plans to be unveiled at next week’s Edinburgh Interactive Festival.

Simon Nelson, controller for multi-platform and portfolio of BBC Vision, will be delivering a keynote address at the event which will reportedly outline plans for the broadcaster to start making more games.

The official description of Nelson’s talk already hinted that this was possible, saying he will "explore the BBC’s interactive vision and, within it, the role of games – with a rare insight into what broadcasters are learning from the games industry and some of the challenges he believes the games industry needs to urgently address".

Nelson recently spearheaded the launch of the BBC’s new PC-based iPlayer, an way for viewers to access the previous week’s TV content online – the Scotland on Sunday report cites unnamed speculation that the iPlayer will play part of the BBC games push, perhaps as a portal for casual games.

The BBC has been in games before, with mixed results: it launched its BBC Multimedia division in 1995 during the rise of the PC CD-ROM era and in ten years it grew into a strong team that included a 30-man development studio turning BBC properties into games.

However after badly-received attempts at cross-media games ideas such as Fightbox, and an eventually-canned attempt to turn TV show Spooks into a PS2 title, the operation was reorganised in 2005 to become a purely licence-oriented division focused on finding other partners to make games using BBC IP.

Of late, the BBC’s only games-related forays have been web-based casual titles based around its shows, or online interactive elements for kids – late 2005 saw the launch of alternate reality game Jamie Kane.

Earlier this year the firm, along with kids’ TV firm Ragdoll, announced it was to produce an MMO with Cambridge-based Nice Tech.

A potential move back into games via the iPlayer app would be timely, given the rise of digital distribution and rise of casual games (presumably the player wouldn’t be used for high-end software).

UPDATE: In a statement sent to Develop this afternoon, the BBC has denied any resuscitation of its gaming operation.

"Simon Nelson Controller Portfolio & Multimedia, BBC Vision will be doing a keynote at the Edinburgh Interactive Games Festival. However, the focus of his speech is on what the BBC can learn from the gaming industry (and vice versa)," the statement said.

"The presentation will not reveal a major move into the games industry and is in fact just reflective of the way in which various sectors of the entertainment industry are now converging and can learn from each others methods of working."

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