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Online Games by the Hundreds, With Tie-Ins - New York Times

For some children, watching "Dora the Explorer" on television is becoming passé. Now, they want to be Dora.

Tapping into this desire, media companies are increasingly entering the marketplace for online games - called casual games - and treating them as new programming, not just online add-ons to their television properties.

In addition to building brands, one of the big lures in casual games is the opportunity to attract advertising, including from food companies which have gradually agreed to limit the nature and volume of television advertisements aimed at children. But those agreements have not always extended to the Internet.

Viacom, the parent company of Nickelodeon and MTV, may be moving the most aggressively. On Tuesday Nickelodeon is expected to announce the first of 600 original and exclusive games for its network of Web sites, as part of a $100 million investment in game development.

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