National Geographic Ventures, a unit of the nonprofit National Geographic Society, was set to announce Tuesday it will work with game publishers to turn its material into games for PCs, consoles and handheld devices.
"Our content is extremely well-suited for a global gaming audience," said Paul Levine, a National Geographic executive who will lead the new games division. The games will be drawn from a broad range of content and themes across National Geographic's properties.
The first title - available now for computers and the iPhone - is "Herod's Lost Tomb," a simple hidden-objects game built on a story in the magazine's December issue and a television show about King Herod. It's produced in-house by National Geographic. The company is also working with Namco Bandai Games America and Sony Computer Entertainment to publish and distribute games under its brand for consoles like the Wii and the PlayStation 3.
Namco Bandai's "National Geographic: Panda" for the handheld Nintendo DS, available this month, plays something like "Nintendogs," the 2005 virtual pet game that had you taking care of a puppy, and the aptly named "Zoo Tycoon" that puts you in charge of a zoo, Levine said.
While the games seek to offer "entertainment with substance," Levine said he doesn't expect them to be used in schools.
"They are games, first and foremost," he said.