Struggling social gamers Zynga have burnished their real-money online gambling hopes with the acquisition of game studio Spooky Cool Labs. The Chicago-based Spooky was founded by former International Game Technology (IGT) lead designer Joe Kaminkow, a man Strictly Slots Magazine dubbed one of the 10 most influential people in the history of slots. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Kaminkow will continue working with Aussie gaming device maker Aristocrat Leisure, which hired Kaminkow in February as its senior VP of Game Development.
Zynga chief revenue officer Barry Cottle stated that Spooky’s 40-member team was the right bunch to help Zynga “bring the feeling of being on a casino floor and the thrill of hitting a big jackpot right to players wherever they play.” Kaminkow said Spooky brings “a particular excellence in game development to the social casino genre” and was proud to be a part of the Zynga family. Hopefully this acquisition serves Zynga better than last year’s $180m acquisition of OMGPOP, which Zynga effectively wrote off during the latest cost-cutting measures announced earlier this month.
In other social casino news, IGT has announced its social casino offshoot DoubleDown Casino will now be available via Playphone Inc.’s mobile social gaming network, which already includes in-house games like Mafia Blackjack. Playphone also has deals in place with leading North American mobile carriers including Verizon, AT&T and Rogers, as well as a recent tie-up with the Claro telecom group in Brazil. IGT VP of Global Marketing John Clelland said the deal created “frictionless access to game play” for DoubleDown players, while Playphone CEO Ron Czerny called the deal “a natural fit.”
DoubleDown has also expanded its linguistic horizons by adding French, German and Spanish-language versions of its popular social gaming offering, and an Italian product is slated for release later this year. IGT Interactive Group executive VP Robert Melendres said the goal was to offers players around the world “an all-inclusive place where they can play games in their native language.”
Social game outfit King – the developers behind the über-popular Candy Crush Saga – is reportedly planning an initial public offering. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that King was lining up investment bankers to prep the company for its public market debut, although a King spokesperson would only say that while an IPO remained “an option for the future, we would not comment on when we could consider making such a decision.” King has struggled to repeat its Candy Crush success, leading to concerns that an IPO would suffer the same fate as Zynga, which has shed 70% of its value since its market debut.
Finally, New York-based software outfit High 5 Games has reached a deal to acquire games developer Electrotank. High 5 CEO Anthony Singer said the deal would “strengthen and finalize” his company’s game server platform by making game content available to both social casino and real-money gaming sites. The two companies had already worked together to reformat some of High 5’s land-based slot titles for social gaming purposes, and Electrotank CEO Michael Gold said he was “excited to see what the two companies can do together.” Electrobank’s staff will be absorbed into High 5’s ranks.