MTV getting Stacked

MTV will integrate poker title into programming; Myelin Media founder Gene Mauro deals out the details.

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The PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC, and PSP aren't the only platforms gamers will encounter in the upcoming poker sim, Stacked with Daniel Negreanu. The game will be appearing at a cable channel near you as well. In a deal previously revealed in The Hollywood Reporter, MTV and the game's publisher, Myelin Media, made their marriage official today.

Calling the deal "unique," MTV will promote the upcoming game via programming based on the Stacked brand. It will also use its reach into households thick with 18- to 35-year-old males to market the game in a variety of yet-to-be-announced ways.

Newly appointed MTV Networks Music and LOGO Enterprise Group executive VP Jeff Yapp said the alliance "represents another exciting addition to the MTV Games family." Yapp told the Reporter earlier that his group would both create games on its own and partner with third-party developers.

Yapp said the Stacked alliance would surface on MTV network brands including MTV, MTV2, and mtvU.

Emphasizing the deal as one that includes "revenue sharing," today's announcement was shy on details other than to say MTV Games would use "on-air, online, mobile and other platforms" as means to promote the game, and that the network would promote online tournaments.

GameSpot spoke with Myelin Media founder Gene Mauro for some additional background.

GameSpot: The upside for each of the two parties is what?

Gene Mauro: We get targeted promotion and unique, Stacked-branded programming across the MTV networks as well as comprehensive support at MTV.com. This will include a tournament component that ties to the unique multiplayer, multitable tournament functionality in Stacked.

MTV gets association and programming content with the hottest poker game coming to market as mass-market awareness and interest in poker reaches new heights. We have created mutual incentive for each company to do what we are best at. For Myelin, this means publishing a world class, premium, branded poker video game with a media powerhouse. For MTV, it means creating innovative ways to engage their enormous audience in the Stacked game and community.

Our deal with MTV allows for sweeping integration between the MTV and the Stacked brands in ways that will create a video game experience for the youth market unlike what is currently in the market.

GS: Why MTV?

GM: There were several major media companies interested in associating with Stacked, but we ultimately chose MTV because we believe the MTV brand and its audience best fits the essence of Stacked.

GS: And the essence of Stacked is what?

GM: MTV owns the mass and pop culture markets and we wanted a partner that could provide not just access, but deeper value in connecting with this savvy audience. Stacked embodies the emerging next generation of poker, which is clearly sweeping the nation in all media.

GS: Can you take us a bit closer to the deal?

GM: It's interesting really. Jeff Yapp, EVP Programming Enterprises, and Tony Calandra, MTV's senior director of Interactive are being very aggressive and smart about what it means for MTV to be in the video game business. They're making a conscious decision to depart from the 'licensed property transaction' that is typical of companies in their position. Instead they are investing their expertise and media reach in ways that are far more likely to generate value for their brand, and have a greater benefit for Stacked.

In our case, Stacked serves as a unique opportunity for MTV to participate in the enormous popularity of poker--which is happening in colleges, at your Tuesday night game with friends, etc.

As you probably know, MTV looks to put their own 'take' on shows you might see on other networks. For the home enthusiast there is Cribs, for the auto enthusiast there is Pimp My Ride, for the OC crowd there is Laguna Beach, etc.

Stacked will be MTV's take on poker at a point where the category is getting impressive ratings on major networks like NBC. MTV has an opportunity to take considerable market share here in an untapped market: the more youthful, tech-savvy poker player.

Additionally, MTV will be handling licensed merchandise for Stacked. We're both very excited about the prospects at retail in this regard.

GS: Win-win?

GM: Well, we have found a true media partner in MTV. MTV can help catapult Stacked into the mass-market consciousness. The tight integration between the Stacked brand and the MTV demographic is the real win for us.

GS: In what ways will we see the Stacked brand surface in MTV programming?

GM: We will have more announcements closer to launch, but MTV's unique blend of innovative programming team and astute understanding of the audience will create a new approach to poker, using Stacked.

GS: Will Stacked be playable off the MTV.com site?

GM: Not playable, necessarily, although we may put a Web client on the site. The real win at MTV.com is the community aspect. This is where consumers of Stacked can go to see where they fit in the overall Stacked Masters tournaments and participate in Stacked gaming-related community activities.

GS: What has the reception of Stacked been, leading up to its fall release?

GM: We are very happy with early retail orders and feedback.

GS: Any more card games/poker games up your sleeves at Myelin?

GM: Stacked was designed to be the premium poker video game franchise. I can't talk about future iterations, but I can say we believe poker itself has emerged as a 'real' sport and the category will have legs--we plan to dominate the poker video game market.

GS: Does the MTV deal preclude you from working with other media outlets?

GM: The MTV deal is additive, not limiting.

GS: Why do you think MTV bit?

GM: Stacked has three primary unique features that set it apart from products that have been in the market to date, and a couple of special additions.

First, the Adaptive Artificial Intelligence seen in the game's single-player career mode. Based on more than 10 years of poker research at the University of Alberta, Stacked has exclusively licensed the Poki Artificial Intelligence System to enhance your hold 'em single-player experience. Poki has been designed to adapt to your gameplay. This means that it profiles you and tracks how you play, 'computing' your habits and style. As you continue to play, Poki continues to learn more and more about you, making informed decisions on how to play against you much like a real poker player would.

Then there's Daniel Negreanu. Daniel is by far one of the most accomplished poker players in the world today. With tournament winnings and accolades far exceeding other players, Daniel is excited about Stacked's product qualities and how realistic and competitive it is.

Stacked has a robust Hold 'Em Tournament engine, allowing the player to enter 'sanctioned' Stacked Masters Events. This is certainly one of the key features that attracted MTV to Stacked. The Stacked tournaments serve the social-cultural poker movement online, and can be carried across multiple platforms in promotion and programming (TV, online, game). The MTV/Stacked Masters Events have a complex ranking system, similar to those seen in professional poker where it's not just about your winnings, but also your level of competition, etc. We'll host these sanctioned events to keep the community at large, engaged. The player also has the option of creating their own private tournaments--using our Tournament system.

GS: Can you explain how the 'compete against the pros' feature works?

GM: Offline and online, in single-player career mode, as you progress through your tournament, you may find one or more of our seven pros. Our pros have been aligned to some of Poki's toughest bots--and have been matched based on style (e.g., Carlos Mortensen's Stacked alter ego tends to raise). When playing online, you may find one of our pros at your table--and--when you are playing online, only our pros will be able to use their character--giving players an assurance that it's really them you're competing against!

GS: The issue of PSP-PS2 interoperability is what?

GM: The consumer can exchange career mode progress/information between the PSP and PS2, thus allowing you to take Stacked on the go, or in your living room without losing your progress.

GS: Thanks, Gene.

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