Social networking has become a powerful force in the past few years. Twitter has over 100 million active users, as does MySpace. The king of social networking, with 400 million active users world wide, is no doubt Facebook. Beside controversially redefining online privacy standards (see Austin Post article Facebook Trying to Save Face) and inspiring spinoffs such as Skinbook (the Facebook for nudists) and MillatFacebook (the Islamic alternative to Facebook brought about by “Everyone Draw Muhammad Day”), Facebook is also redefining how video game development studios work.
Instead of producing big budget titles for expensive consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3, many companies are looking more to browser-based games that can be played on sites like Facebook. One game company that’s found its niche in developing games for Facebook is San Francisco based Zynga, the developer responsible for popular games such as Farmville (82.4 million active users on Facebook) and Mafia Wars (25.9 million). Zynga has just purchased Austin-based Challenge Games, which specializes in “online, short form games” that can be played by serious and casual gamers and be played in “3-10 minute time increments.” Perfect for Facebook.
Challenge Games will now be known as Zynga Austin. Zynga’s senior vice president of games Mike Verdu praised Austin in the company’s statement that was released today.
“Austin is an ideal location to extend our studio operations with its rich talent in the games business,” he said. “We look forward to building out our Zynga Austin studio with the best and brightest in the industry as we continue to bring social games to more users worldwide.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Challenge Games’ team of 35 people will simply be absorbed into the Zynga workforce.
Austin’s long had a strong presence in the video game market. I recently learned that critically-acclaimed machinima production group Rooster Teeth Productions is based in Austin. They’re responsible for the utterly hilarious Halo-based series Red Vs. Blue...
Their offices are apparently above a Pita Pit somewhere downtown, something I’ll have to check out at some point soon. They'll no doubt be busier as the new Halo game gets closer (see New Halo Multiplayer Beta Sets Web Abuzz).