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News Corp. stealthily deepens investment in social gaming

February 25, 2011 | 11:51 am

Media giant News Corp. is deepening its investment in the fast-growing social gaming market.

The company quietly acquired social game publisher Making Fun Inc., a year-old San Francisco company started by a pair of game industry veterans, last November but never announced it. Instead, the acquisition became public Friday morning as Making Fun began soliciting deals with independent developers interested in making games for Facebook and other social networks, as well as for smartphones and tablet computers.

A News Corp. representative was not available for comment.

But, John Welch, general manager of Making Fun, said in an interview, "News Corp. recognized that gaming is very important as a form of media." He declined to disclose financial terms of the purchase. "The future of gaming, as with many other forms of entertainment, is digital."

News Corp. began dabbling in social gaming last spring, when it purchased Irata Labs, a small development studio that is also based in San Francisco. These investments follow a similar, if higher-stakes, move by the Walt Disney Co., with its $563-million acquisition last July of social game developer Playdom.

Big media interest has been stoked by the roaring popularity of the independently owned Zynga, which raked in an estimated $500 million in revenue last year from popular Facebook games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars, according to the Inside Network, which tracks Facebook apps.

Welch and Chief Technical Officer Lee Crawford set out to create what the former described as a "second wave" play in social gaming. Unlike Zynga, Playdom and other companies that focused on making games and applications for Facebook, Making Fun positioned itself as a publisher -- soliciting (and funding) ideas from game developers all around the world.

Three deals are already in place, although Welch declined to identify them, citing competitive reasons. Welch also declined to provide any details on the first titles, which are schedule for release this summer. He said he's looking to meet with other game developers at next week's Game Developer Conference in San Francisco.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

 

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