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Saban Brands buys Zombie Farm iOS gamemaker The Playforge

Saban Brands, a transmedia investment company, has acquired hit iPhone gamemaker The Playforge for an undisclosed price.

San Mateo, Calif.-based The Playforge has made the hit game Zombie Farm, which was the third-highest grossing app on the Apple iTunes App Store in 2011. It has been downloaded more than 37 million times. Saban Brands plans to extend The Playforge’s brands via licensing, merchandising, and media opportunities. Saban is another newcomer in the game business, and it believes that mobile gaming is the next big thing in entertainment.

The Playforge started as a husband and wife team — Vince McDonnell and Susan Salvador — in 2009. It now has 25 employees and three games in the market: Zombie Farm, Zombie Life, and Tree World. Saban is a subsidiary of Saban Capital Group, and it invests in “transmedia” entertainment properties. It currently owns the Power Rangers and Paul Frank brands, acquired in 2010.

“Mobile is becoming the default medium for entertainment, and games are the future of social engagement,” said Dan Silberberger, vice president of digital at Saban Brands. “The Playforge has a demonstrated record of creating sustainable, high-quality mobile social games. This acquisition allows us to take a leadership position in the space, combine our brand expertise with the development capabilities of The Playforge, and further expand our reach to wherever consumers want — from mobile to online to television. We’re excited to see the new developments that result from this exciting partnership.”

The Playforge will continue to release games under its own brand, with a focus on character-based games. The company is the only app maker besides Angry Birds creator Rovio to be in the top 10 grossing apps on the App Store in both 2010 and 2011.

“By partnering with Saban Brands, we’re able to take our products to new heights, where they can be enjoyed and experienced by a much broader audience through licensing, merchandising, and media opportunities, areas that are tremendously exciting to us,” said Vince McDonnell, CEO of The Playforge. “We look forward to collaborating with Dan and his team in support of our three additional title launches in 2012 and as we plan for the future.”

In July, Saban Brands acquired Vortexx, a broadcast television block on the CW Network. The Playforge’s rivals include PopCap Games (now part of Electronic Arts) and a host of other mobile game companies.

Tim Merel, managing director at Digi-Capital, an investment bank focused on games, said, “We think there is huge potential in transmedia games, but it requires a special combination of skills to make them work. Saban is one of the leading lights in making transmedia work across TV/games/toys (Power Rangers), so we think this deal is very interesting.”


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