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RockYou buys UK game developer Playdemic

Continuing its expansion in social games, RockYou said it is buying UK game developer Playdemic.

The deal is the second developer acquisition in a month and reflects RockYou’s new emphasis on developing games at a faster pace in 2011, said Lisa Marino, the company’s chief operating officer. RockYou is in a race to catch up with the likes of Zynga, which is gaining users by the tens of millions thanks to the success of its CityVille game.

Playdemic adds 16 employees in Manchester, England, giving RockYou a total of 170 employees. Playdemic’s first title was Gourmet Ranch, which garnered more than 500,000 monthly active users. It wasn’t a huge hit, but the game showed that the team could crank out a social game. Marino said in an interview that scouting out proven teams with published games is a great way to find developers who understand Facebook and social games.

During 2011, Marino said RockYou hopes to publish eight to 10 social games. The company didn’t publish any in 2010, relying instead on its Zoo World Facebook game for growth. Consequently, RockYou’s monthly active users have fallen to 19 million and its ranking is now No. 12 on the list of Facebook app publishers, according to AppData.

Playdemic’s Gourmet Ranch targets women ages 35 to 50, and Marino expects that Playdemic will continue to target that segment. Playdemic’s chief investor is Ian Livingstone, former president of Eidos, and Paul Gouge, chief  executive of Playdemic, will continue to lead the studio. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. In December, RockYou bought social game developer TirNua, which had developed a way to make 3D games on Facebook. Marino said that for 2011, having a good mobile strategy will be very important to social game makers.

RockYou has had layoffs recently, and its chief executive Lance Tokuda, stepped down from his post to handle special projects. But Marino has said the company will continue to move aggressively even while it hunts for a new CEO. It has raised $127 million to date. Its investors include Sequoia Capital, Partech International, Lightspeed Venture Partners, DCM, SK Telecom Ventures and SoftBank.


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