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Portalarium raises $7M for Facebook and mobile role-playing games (exclusive)

Portalarium, the social game startup headed by Richard Garriott (famous for designing the popular Ultima role-playing games in the ’80s and ’90s), has raised $7 million in funding to complete development of its first title, Ultimate Collector.

Austin, Texas-based Portalarium raised the money from M8 Capital, FF Angel, BHV Venture Capital, and Garriott himself. The company is planning on releasing Ultimate Collector, now in beta testing, later this summer on Facebook, web browsers, and mobile platforms. They money will also be used to launch production of Garriott’s next RPG, Ultimate RPG/New Britannia, for mobile platforms.

“Following our early stage investment in Portalarium, announced in June 2011, we’re pleased to further our commitment to Richard Garriott and to Portalarium,” said M8 Capital general partner Joseph Kim. “Richard is one of the legendary developers in the gaming industry, and his vision for this next era of mobile and social gaming will firmly position Portalarium as an industry leader. We are looking forward to a successful launch of the company’s next game, Ultimate Collector, and to see how Richard will redefine the role-playing genre for the mobile era.”

Garriott said, “This is an important step for the growth of our company. We are grateful for the confidence M8 Capital and Founders Fund have placed in our team, and we believe gamers will ultimately reap the benefits from this partnership when they get a chance to play Ultimate Collector and see the unique mobile and social games that we are creating at Portalarium.”

Portalarium has cut a deal with Zynga to publish its games on Zynga’s platforms on Zynga.com and Facebook under the Zynga Platform Partners third-party publishing program.

Garriott is famous for a lot of things, including the aforementioned creation of the Ultima series and the failed Tabula Rasa massively multiplayer online game. He is known as Lord British, tens of millions of people over three decades have enjoyed his work.

But he also recently made headlines by rocketing to the International Space Station in a commercial trip financed with $30 million of his own money. Garriott recently married and added on his wife’s last name to his own in a legal capacity. His new name is Richard Garriott de Cayeux.

Garriott started Portalarium in September 2009 and previously raised $3.5 million. Garriott said he raised money from venture capitalists for the first time because he felt that it is becoming more and more important to reach scale faster. Portalarium has 30 employees. It competes with other social game makers such as Zynga, Electronic Arts, and Disney-Playdom.

In an interview with GamesBeat, Garriott said he has seen a lot of change since launching the company. At first, Portalarium was focused mainly on social games, and its first title will come out on Facebook initially and mobile platforms later. But the second title will release on mobile platforms first, a reflection of the shift toward this space.

“We started with social and mobile, and now are focused on mobile and social,” he said. “The priority of the order reflects the change. Our role-playing game will come out on mobile first, social second. We think over the long haul that mobile will become much more important.”

Garriott said that gaming has gone through several eras: single-player games, massively multiplayer online game, and social games.

“Social has taken only five years to mature, and mobile is maturing even faster,” Garriott said. “The old markets are still there, but now we’re seeing markets that are an order of magnitude bigger, layering on top of it the older market.”

Regarding Ultimate Collector, Garriott said it is a lighter game than he normally does but is deeper than many social games on the market. He is interested in recreating the RPG genre in mobile.

[Image credits: Portalarium]


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