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Seismic seizes $2 million in funding for social games

Greg Borrud_Seismic GamesSeismic Games Inc. became the latest start-up company to dive into social games, announcing Tuesday that it had snagged $2 million in funding from DFJ Frontier, investor Tom Matlack and others.

The funding came before the company has even released its first title, signalling just how eager investors are to place their bets on the small but fast-growing social games market currently dominated by Zynga Inc. and Electronic Arts Inc.

In the last few years, numerous start-ups have jumped into social games, including Rumble, MindJolt SGA and Kabam — all backed by funding from heavy hitters in the venture crowd.

Seismic's investors include DFJ Frontier, a division of SIlicon Valley's Draper Fisher Jurvetson, which has invested in Skype, Hotmail and hundreds of other technology companies. Also in the mix is Craig Silverstein, a television producer whose credits include "Nikita," "Bones" and "Terra Nova."

Based near Culver City, the 23-person game studio may be spanking new, but its founders are old hands in the world of games. Its chief executive, Greg Borrud, co-founded Pandemic Studios, where he managed a team of 500 game developers who produced big-budget console titles such as Star Wars: Battlefront, Mercenaries and Destroy All Humans. The Santa Monica studio, along with its sister company BioWare, was sold to Electronic Arts in 2007 for $860 million. Its president, Chris Miller, was a vice president at Vivendi Universal Games, and co-founder Eric Gerwitz was a lead game designer at Activision Blizzard Inc.

But enough with the name-dropping. What's really so bewitching about Seismic that compels rational investors to part with their millions? Borrud believes his yet-unannounced social game would tap into new ways to play social games by drawing on lessons learned from his years in producing traditional video games.

"We think there’s an opportunity to focus on letting people play with identity, customization and character development," Borrud said in an interview. "It ties into Facebook as a platform, where it’s a reflection of you as an individual. It starts with letting you build your character, giving yourself a name, determining what you look like, what you like to do, who you'd like to be. Traditional games have been doing this for years, because people love doing that. I’m surprised at how shallow that aspect of play is in most social games, and we see an opportunity in that." 

For now, that promise will just have to suffice because Seismic's first title, a casual role-playing social game, isn't expected to hit Facebook for at least several months.

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— Alex Pham

Photo: Greg Borrud, a veteran game producer, has co-founded a new social games company, Seismic Games, based in Los Angeles. Credit: Seismic Games.

 
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