THE BBC is to reveal a major move into computer games - just weeks after the corporation was slammed for ripping off viewers who called its TV phone-ins.
Simon Nelson, the BBC's new media boss, will unveil the corporation's gaming strategy at the Edinburgh Interactive Festival next week.
Nelson introduced podcasts - downloadable broadcasts - to the BBC and believes that the corporation has a lot to learn from games, which are more popular than TV or radio with many younger people.
But the corporation will have to tread carefully, following the public humiliation it suffered last week when some of its competitions were revealed to be fakes. The corporation refused to give details of its strategy ahead of Nelson's keynote address on August 14.
The BBC provides a limited number of games, mainly aimed at children, through its CBBC and Blast operations. It also creates downloadable games linked to TV shows such as Doctor Who.
Industry sources expect the corporation to beef up its output and start creating products which will be taken more seriously in the gaming community.
Some speculate that the new games could be linked to the iPlayer system, the engine behind the BBC's new On-Demand service. This allows viewers to download a TV programme up to seven days after it has been shown, store it for 30 days and watch it within seven days of being opened.
Nelson is one of the BBC's leading innovators. Last year, as controller of BBC radio and music interactive, he led talks between the corporation and Apple to develop a device that would enable consumers to listen to digital radio on their iPods. He said the concept was part of the BBC's plan to make digital radio as ubiquitous as analogue.
At the end of 2006, Nelson was made controller of multiplatform and portfolio projects in the BBC Vision TV programming and new media operation, reporting to Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision.
His choice of Edinburgh to reveal the BBC's strategy is not accidental.
Scotland has one of Europe's most vibrant computer games industries, led by internationally renowned names such as Rockstar North and Real Time Worlds, with a host of smaller development firms working on mobile phone and multiplayer internet games as well as traditional console products.
But the industry is notoriously risky. Last week Take-Two, the US company which owns Rockstar North, suffered a 16% drop in its share price because of a delay to the launch of its latest game, Grand Theft Auto IV, which is under development at the company's Edinburgh office. The game was first scheduled to be released in time for Christmas this year but will not now appear until summer 2008.
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