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Kabam to bring The Godfather to Facebook

August 25, 2011 | 12:01 am

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Social games on Facebook, sometimes derided as wimpy by some hard-core gamers, may soon make an offer its users can't refuse.

Kabam, a San Francisco developer of social games, on Thursday announced it will come out with a title based on "The Godfather" movie trilogy.

Godfather Logo The game, licensed by Viacom's Paramount Pictures, takes place in New York City in the 1930s, 10 years before the beginning of the first movie. Each player is born into one of the five mob families featured in the films and must fight or scheme their way to the top to become a don of a family.

It's not the first time The Godfather franchise has been adapted to a game. Electronic Arts Inc. made two, one in 2006 and another in 2009. The company declined to make a third because of poor sales of the second game. Nor is Kabam's game the only mob-themed title on Facebook. There's also Mafia Wars, Mob Wars, Gangster Battle, Gangster City and Underworld.

But The Godfather: Five Families will feature a signature Kabam formula -- hard-core game tactics that might turn off squeamish novices but are popular with serious players who are more accustomed to difficult or complex missions with big wins and losses. A player, for example, could spend months building up territory only to lose big chunks of it overnight to another player. They'll also be able to form alliances, attack rival families and even backstab members of their own family to get ahead. In other words, they'll keep their friends close and their enemies closer.

"We're bringing a hard-core Mafia experience to social games," said Chris Carvalho, Kabam's chief operating officer and the former head of business development at Lucasfilm, who struck the licensing deal with Paramount. "We think there's a completely untapped audience for that."

Right now, many in that hard-core audience are tapped into so-called massively multiplayer online games such as Eve Online, World of Warcraft and EverQuest II, all of which charge players a monthly fee. 

Like most social games on Facebook, Kabam's Godfather title will be free. Instead, the company plans to make money by selling virtual weapons or special abilities that could give players an edge over others, said Larry Koh, the game's general manager.

Kabam's approach is unusual in that it targets a narrow range of players who aren't normally associated with social games. Other developers such as Zynga and Electronic Arts' Playfish social games division go after a mainstream audience with games that are simple to play and don't involve much in the way of upsetting losses, but Kabam sees profit in building games for a primarily young, male player.

The privately held company, which has attracted $124.5 million in venture financing, does not divulge its financial figures, but says it is profitable.

Terms of The Godfather license are confidential, so it's difficult to say how much cost the license added to developing the game, which is estimated will have involved 25 employees working a full year once the game launches this fall.

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-- Alex Pham 

Game image courtesy of Kabam

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