News Corp. Buys Social Software Studio Irata Labs (Yes, The #Spymaster Guys)

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News Corp. has acquired Irata Labs, a small social software development studio based in San Francisco, the LA Times has learned.

The company, which builds games and other apps for social networks, has confirmed the deal to us and on Twitter (check out these tweets from Irata Labs CEO Chris Abad and co-founder and designer D. Keith Robinson). The terms were not disclosed.

The name Irata Labs doesn’t ring a bell, say you? Well, perhaps you’re familiar with their social game Spymaster, which started as a massive time-killer on Twitter and later expanded to the iPhone and Facebook.

Spymaster lets you run your own virtual spy ring across social networks and from your iPhone.

It gained notoriety for being one of the first games to really leverage the viral power of Twitter, but it also got a huge backlash from users when it started sending out direct messages en masse. Venturebeat’s Eric Eldon at the time joked that maybe they should rename the game “SpamMaster”.

Irata Labs is also behind iList, a nifty social classifieds service, and the company was also working on Flyvly, a platform that aimed to one day enable rapid development of location-based social games.

The LA Times reports that the company, which only has three full-time employees, will not be incorporated into either of News Corp.’s major online assets – MySpace or the game review site IGN. Instead, the developers are expected to work with those divisions whenever it makes sense, a person familiar with the matter told the paper.

Still according to the LA Times article, Irata Labs received angel funding from Veoh founder Dmitry Shapiro, entrepreneur Alex Bard and VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, although it’s unclear exactly how much was raised.

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