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PC Preview - 'Cartoon Network MMO'

by Rusty Bailey on April 1, 2007 @ 6:49 a.m. PDT

A Cartoon Network-themed MMO title is currently in development and will be released in Q2 2008. One of our writers recently had a chance to speak with Chris Waldron, executive producer of the Cartoon Network MMO, and here's what this inquiring mind found out....

Genre: MMO
Publisher: Cartoon Network
Developer: Grigon Entertainment
Release Date: Q2 2008

For years, titles like World of Warcraft and EverQuest have stolen the lives of PC gamers everywhere with their addictive social gameplay. The online gaming craze has caught on, and Turner Broadcasting has taken notice. Cartoon Network has teamed up with Seoul, Korea-based Grigon Entertainment to produce a Cartoon Network-themed massively multiplayer online (MMO) game aimed specifically at kids.

I spoke with Chris Waldron, executive producer of the Cartoon Network MMO, who described the upcoming game as, "a massively multiplayer game that will be targeted at kids, not adults. It's not an Adult Swim game; it's a Cartoon Network game."

It is still very early in production, so Waldron had to keep many details of the game under wraps, but he did explain, "if you're familiar with games like World of Warcraft or City of Heroes ... it's sort of in that vein." While it will be free to download, the title will require a subscription, and users will have the option to conduct micro-transactions — a model that has proven to be very successful in Asia. Although it hasn't been decided how the title is going to be distributed, Waldron said that they are "going to release new content to keep it fresh."

Cartoon Network drew a lot of influence from MMOs already existing on the market. "We looked at games like World of Warcraft and watched the explosive growth there in allowing people to play by themselves — to solo the game, so to speak — and also enjoy grouping when they want to or getting into guilds and really enjoying the social elements."

This isn't simply going to be a virtual chat room, however. "There will be plenty of social things to do so that kids can play together, but there will also be a rich, deep story to the game that will be compelling," Waldron said.

While you can create your own custom characters, the game will also feature a wide variety of original Cartoon Network 'toons ranging from "Dexter's Laboratory" and "Powerpuff Girls" to more recent shows, like "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" and "Ben 10."

Of course, because this is a game for kids, the social element needs to be tamer than most online chat rooms. Waldron said they will be able to filter and moderate what the players say to each other and keep it a safe environment for everyone, including requiring a Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) agreement for gamers younger than 13.

"We're looking at things that we've done in the past on our own site, as well as what other companies who work with kids are doing, and we're going to use many of those same techniques and perhaps extend some of them to make sure that we offer the safest environment we can for the game," he said.

But how did Cartoon Network get involved with Korean game developer, Grigon Entertainment?

"We were attracted to Korea because when we were over there looking at developers, we were amazed at the number of developers and the breadth of games," Waldron said.

He explained that US-developed MMOs are few and far between and that they all seem to be the same genre, but in Korea, "they do a lot more different types of games, there are a lot more developers making these kinds of games, and they are being more innovative both in the features of the game and certainly in the business models that support them."

The Korean MMO developers are great, but why did they choose Grigon?

"We met with a number of different developers, and we were very excited about Grigon because they had a really good cartoon style and the sense of humor in their games that we at Cartoon Network very much respected," Waldron said.

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Cartoon Network also sought out some local talent. "Right now, we've actually asked a couple of colleges here in the Atlanta area for interns to volunteer to help us out with translation and help us get a better handle on some of the Korean content that we're looking at," he said.

The Cartoon Network MMO is expected to release in the second quarter of 2008, but can older cartoon lovers expect an online Adult Swim-oriented game? Waldron said, "There's been a little bit of talk, but no, certainly nothing is concrete yet." While the upcoming Cartoon Network MMO may not be for adult audiences, it seems that the network is going to great lengths to assure that this will an entertaining and safe title for kids.

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