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The latest investment from one of the biggest players in online games in Asia brings together two of gaming’s pioneers to work on mobile strategy games.

Nexon announced it has invested in SecretNewCo, a game startup created by Brian Reynolds, the former chief game designer at Zynga and a noted designer of strategy games.

The deal is a coup for Tokyo-based Nexon, which has made its name in Asian free-to-play downloadable online games. Nexon has been searching for Western talent to expand into new markets and attract other kinds of gamers. Reynolds, meanwhile, is one of the pioneers in strategy gaming who made a detour into social games at Zynga. After four years, he left Zynga earlier this year and decided to create a new startup that would focus on strategy games. The new company is based in Maryland.

Reynolds has one of the most impressive resumes in the game business. A 22-year veteran, he learned from one of the best, Sid Meier of Firaxis Games. He is the lead designer for Civilization II and Alpha Centauri, two of the best strategy games ever made. Reynolds founded Big Huge Games, where he made real-time strategy games such as Rise of Nations and Rise of Legends.


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Nexon has made an unspecified cash equity investment in SecretNewCo in exchange for a minority stake in the company. Nexon also acquired the publishing rights on a worldwide basis for SecretNewCo’s flagship game, which will be a “mobile strategic social network game.” In that game, codenamed SecretNewGame, players begin as a leader of a tribe in the Stone Age and guide their civilization through all the ages of human history. Players can form alliances, trade with friends, launch raids on enemies, and defend against attacks from other players.

Does it sound like Civilization or Age of Empires on mobile? Yes, indeed. SecretNewGame should debut in 2014.

“This highly complementary partnership leverages SecretNewCo’s deep expertise and long track record in developing successful strategic SNGs [social network game] for Western tastes and audiences along with Nexon’s extensive know-how in free-to-play games, distribution capability and international platform,” said Owen Mahoney, the chief financial officer and chief administrative officer of Nexon. “This agreement represents a significant milestone for Nexon as we execute against our strategy to grow our business in key markets in the West. We are excited to partner with such a well-respected industry veteran as Brian and the talented SecretNewCo team to bring SecretNewGame to
players around the world.”

Reynolds formed the company in February. He previous served a the designer of games such as FrontierVille and CityVille 2 at Zynga.

“Nexon pioneered the free-to-play model over 15 years ago,” said Reynolds in a statement. “This partnership lets SecretNewCo tap into Nexon’s proven free-to-play expertise and resources as we continue to grow our team and scale the reach of our new game. Nexon shares our focus on developing the best team, most innovative content and – most importantly – connecting people through fun games.”

Reynolds has a lively personality and a booming laugh. While at Zynga, he was a frequent speaker at conferences as he talked about crossing over from console and PC strategy games to social and mobile. His company is represented by Ophir Lupu of United Talent Agency.

Nexon, founded in 1994, is a pioneer of free-to-play games and it has more than 60 online games with 1.3 billion player registrations.

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