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RockYou signs deal with Doom creator John Romero's social game studio Loot Drop

Aiming to lock up a high-quality game developer, RockYou has signed a deal with Loot Drop, a new social game studio created by id Software founders and gaming legends John Romero and Tom Hall.

Romero and Hall were the co-founders of id Software, the creator of classic video games such as Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein 3D. Their careers have spanned 30 years of the game industry, and now they’re turning their focus to social games on Facebook. The deal shows the growing maturity of social games, which are so lucrative and are generating such big audiences that they’re luring seasoned game makers.

Romero said in an interview that his goal is to push the boundaries of social games with creative game design. Under the deal, San Mateo, Calif.-based Loot Drop will make a game that RockYou will fund and publish. The target is to get a game out by the summer, Romero said.

Jonathan Knight, a game veteran who joined Redwood City, Calif.-based RockYou as senior vice president of publishing, said in an interview that RockYou will publish the game and promote it to its users, which number about 18.9 million according to AppData. RockYou will also maintain the game after Loot Drop finishes development. Knight said the deal is the latest move by RockYou to sign up world-class talent. RockYou acquired TirNua in December and Playdemic last week.

The Loot Drop deal is its first deal with a third-party developer, Knight said. RockYou didn’t release any new social games last year and instead was focused on its ad network business. But the company has pivoted back into social games.

Third-party development deals are common in the traditional video game industry. But they aren’t so common in social games, or least they aren’t publicized that much. But Romero feels like the industry is mature enough to support an independent game development studio. His company has eight employees and is expanding.

Hall will be the studio head and game designer at Loot Drop’s Austin, Texas studio. He has worked with Romero at places such as id and Ion Storm. Most recently he was an executive at KingsIsle Entertainment, maker of the popular Wizard 101 online virtual fantasy world. Robert Sirotek, co-founder of Sir-Tech Software, will serve as chief executive of Loot Drop. Sirotek’s company released 150 games over 26 years, including Wizardry and Jagged Alliance.

Romero previously worked at Gazillion, making massively multiplayer online games for hardcore gamers. But his project was canceled and he moved on to make a social game, Ravenwood Fair, for LOLApps. That game launched in October and turned out to be a big hit, with 5 million monthly active users. Romero said that whet his appetite for more.

“I really like the faster cycles where you can respond a lot faster to the users,” he said. “We are not interested at all in going back to the normal game industry cycle where it takes years to do a game. This audience is unbelievably massive, and we are very early in its history. I feel like it is 1981 again, and the industry is ready for an explosion of creativity.”

Romero resigned from Gazillion and set up the new company. It is his eighth game start-up. Details of the first game aren’t available yet.

In other words, the man who gave us the shotguns and rocket launchers of horrific 3D shooting game Doom is now a social game convert, making games for the hundreds of millions of Facebook users — many who have never played hardcore games. Asked if there are shotguns in his new game, Romero said with a chuckle, “I can’t say if there are.”


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