Zynga's Shopping Spree Continues, Buys Video Game Developer Bonfire Studios

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Social gaming giant Zynga’s acquisition strategy seems pretty clear at this point: buy a studio for game development and engineering talent and then make that studio the centralized office for whichever country or city the startup is based in. This has been the model thus far for Zynga’s acquisitions of XPD in Beijing, Unoh Games in Tokyo, Conduit Labs in Boston, Dextrose AG in Frankfurt, Germany and Challenge Games in Austin. Today, Zynga is announcing the acquisition of Dallas-based video game developer Bonfire Studios which will now become Zynga Dallas. Zynga is not disclosing the terms of the deal.

The studio has created a number of video game titles for the PC and Xbox 360, including Age of Empires, Age of Mythology and Halo Wars, and according to Zynga, will help the company “continue to develop new IP across multiple platforms.” Bonfire’s three founders – David Rippy, Bill Jackson and Scott Winsett, will become GM, Zynga Dallas, creative director and senior art director, respectively.

Founded in 2008 and self-funded, Bonfire Studios was started and run by former Microsoft-owned Ensemble Studio employees. Rippy was helped found Ensemble and served as an executive producer for the company, Jackson was a producer and designer at the company, and Winsett was the art lead on a number of the studios games.

Clearly, Rippy, Winsett and Jackson have significant experience in video game development, which is a big talent win for Zynga. It also begs the question—will Zynga start developing video games for game consoles? Until now, Zynga’s games have been browser-based and also available via mobile apps. Video games are a whole new ball park and could be a significant revenue stream for the social gaming giant.

Currently, around 33 million people are playing Zynga’s games per day and 10 percent of the world’s internet population (approximately 215 million monthly users) has played a Zynga game in their lifetime. Those are pretty impressive stats, considering Zynga is still only three years old. Not to mention the massive cash infusions the company has received from Google, Softbank, and others.

Interestingly, Zynga’s competitor in the social gaming space, Playdom, which was bought by Disney a few months ago for up to $763 million, was on a similar acquisition tear before its acquisition. Since that time, we haven’t seen Disney follow the same aggressive strategy of buying up small game studios and talent, which means less competition for Zynga. I’d expect to see a few more similar acquisitions come from the social gaming giant over the next few months.

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