LAUNCHPAD: Ba-Zynga - game giant buys Brit firm for $527m

Farmville creator Zynga has bought UK game maker NaturalMotion. Is this the beginning of the end of its troubles?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 10 Feb 2014

It’s been a tough couple of years for Zynga, the company behind hit game Farmville. Having floated in November 2011 at $10 a share, it then proceeded to lose half its value as people realised there was more to life than throwing sheep at one another.

But the company has a new CEO, in the form of Don Mattrick, appointed last summer to succeed founder Mark Pincus (who has stayed on as chairman). It also has a new acquisition, in the form of British firm NaturalMotion, for which Zynga has paid $527m (£320m).

NaturalMotion was founded by Oxford grad Torsten Reil in 2001 (before Zynga was even a glint in Pincus’ eye - it wasn’t launched until 2007). Its games include Clumsy Ninja, CSR Racing and, rather oddly, Jenga - a virtual version of the demolition game. It turns out that even on an iPad, Jenga is monumentally dull….

The company employs 260 people in Oxford, London, Brighton and (natch) San Francisco - although what happens to them remains to be seen. In its fourth-quarter results, posted last night, Zynga announced plans to cut 15% of its workforce after sales fell by 43% to $176.4m. The good news is that it has nearly halved its losses, from $48.6m last year to $25.2m.

‘Over the last seven months, our teams have been working with a sense of urgency,’ said Mattrick. Well, quite. Now there’s the small matter of trying to come up with a follow-up to Farmville. Less sheep-throwing, more fun...

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