Warner buys into online gaming

Warner Bros is buying North America's largest independent online gaming studio in an effort to spread its social networking and micro-payments technology across its video games and home video business.

The acquisition of Turbine, the group behind Dungeons & Dragons Online and the hit multiplayer online game based on Warner's Lord of the Rings film franchise, brings technology capable of charging small sums for swords and spells as players progress through a game, chatting with friends or posting scores to social network sites.

The Time Warner-owned film studio said it increasingly sees personal computers and games consoles, such as Sony's PlayStation 3, as alternative routes into customers' living rooms alongside the televisions and DVD players on which it has traditionally depended.

“Where the trends are dragging us towards is looking at 3D opportunities and going direct to the consumer. The connected consoles are really a path to the home in a way that could become a meaningful distribution platform for us,” said Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner's home entertainment group.

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