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Toon net gets in the game

Grigon Entertainment developing for cabler

Cartoon Network is getting into the videogame business, committing to fund and self-publish a multiplayer online game featuring its characters.

Currently in development with Korean developer Grigon Entertainment, game will be similar to “World of Warcraft,” in which players from around the world pay a subscription fee and interact in an online universe.

Most successful games in the genre have targeted adult men; only other multiplayer online game aimed at kids is Disney’s successful “Toontown,” which lets players interact with Mouse House characters.

Skedded for release in 2008, Cartoon Network’s game will feature popular characters from its shows such as “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends” and “Ben 10,” as well as from upcoming skeins. It won’t include characters from the “Adult Swim” lineup or be aimed at that older demo.

Top-tier multiplayer online games often cost more than $20 million, so the effort reps a major commitment by Cartoon Network, which has previously licensed its characters to videogame publishers. In addition, net will distribute the game itself in the U.S. via the Web, though it may partner with other publishers in international markets.

“We expect to run this ourselves just like we do a network,” said Cartoon Network exec VP-general manager Jim Samples. “We’ll program it with events, new worlds and new characters.”

Because players pay a monthly subscription, typically about $15, producers of games like “Warcraft” usually produce new content on a regular basis.

Grigon has already begun work on the game; Cartoon Network has four employees in Seoul overseeing the project. Once the game launches, Grigon will handle the technical infrastructure, but the net expects to program content from its Atlanta HQ.

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