Zynga Buys Tokyo-Based Startup Unoh

Japan’s biggest business daily, The Nikkei, has just reported on its website that social gaming giant Zynga has acquired Tokyo-based startup Unoh for “several billion Yen” (one billion Yen currently translates to $11.6 million). Neither Zynga nor Unoh have officially confirmed the news yet (Robin Chan, Zynga’s GM of Asia Business Operations, tweeted about a “done deal” just 24 hours ago).

The move follows the $150 million Zynga raised from Japanese technology powerhouse SoftBank to build a joint venture to “develop and distribute social games across Japan.” Now we know where some of that money has landed.

Zynga is said to have acquired 100% of Unoh, with The Nikkei saying that the Americans will transform their new Tokyo office into its strategic base for the Asian social games market as a whole. Unoh will localize Zynga’s games to better fit the taste of Asian customers and will also create titles for the local and international markets on its own.

The Japanese startup, which develops games for both cell phones and PCs, has so far been largely active in its home market only. Unoh’s current hit title is called Machitsuku (“Build a City” in Japanese), a free game with a virtual item-based business model. Machitsuku passed the three million user mark on Mixi, Japan’s largest social network (20 million members), just last week.

The Unoh deal marks Zynga’s second major acquisition in Asia. Zynga bought Beijing-based XPD Media (which was actually Chan’s company) in May this year for an undisclosed sum.

Chan spent a lot of time in Japan recently to build up a Tokyo office for Zynga, but even though I kept grilling him, he remained tight-lipped about his company’s Japan strategy. Rumors about possible acquisitions by Zynga in Japan (where I live) started making the rounds in the local startup scene in June (not to brag, but I actually foresaw the Unoh acquisition back then).

We’ve contacted both Robin Chan and Unoh CEO Shintaro Yamada for official confirmation and further information on the deal.