Gree International Inc., a Japanese mobile game company, announced Tuesday that it had purchased San Francisco mobile game developer Funzio Inc. for $210 million.
The deal represents the second major acquisition of a U.S. company for Gree, which a year ago bought OpenFeint, a mobile social game platform company, for $104 million.
Gree and rival Japanese mobile game company DeNA Co. have been speculating in the U.S., where the market for mobile social games has exploded in the last three years thanks to Apple Inc.'s iOS devices and a proliferation of tablets and smartphones powered by Google Inc.'s Android operating system.
Both Gree and DeNA are betting that the U.S. market will mirror the surge in Japan's mobile games industry over the last decade and evolve into a multibillion-dollar business. DeNA placed its bet in 2010, when it paid up to $400 million for Ngmoco Inc., a Bay Area mobile game company. DeNA and Gree are profitable, largely owing to the lucrative mobile market in Japan.
With Funzio, Gree has kicked up its rivalry with DeNA a notch. The purchase gives Gree a development studio that created Modern War, Crime City and Kingdom Age -- titles that were among iTunes' top 25 grossing apps as of Tuesday.
The games are free to download, but Funzio makes money by selling bundles of in-game currencies for as much as $79.99 that let players advance more rapidly. Funzio estimates that more than 20 million players have downloaded its games.
-- Alex Pham