Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner is now greenlighting social games. His personal investment company, Tornante, is backing an LA startup, Diversion, which is about to launch a new social game on Facebook called FameTown. According to an SEC filing, the amount of the seed round was $300,000.
FameTown is modeled after Zynga’s FarmVille or Mafia Wars, except that you try to become a Hollywood player and produce movies instead of building a farm. The game, which will launch in beta as a Facebook app on November 1, starts out as star map of Hollywood, with a studio area, a nightlife area, a shopping area, and your profile (see screenshots below). You earn “favors” (the currency of the game) by producing movies and you spend energy in the nightlife area, which includes bars, hotels, and the “Underbelly.” Your friends in the game can help promote your movie with buzz or sell their friends’ secrets to the paparazzi.
You can use the favors that you earn to buy skills such as a French accent or comedic timing, movie props, or hire staff such as a personal assistant or an agent. Each time you release a movie, it gets a certain number of stars depending on how much effort and resources you put into it. You start out on the D list, and try to claw your way up to the A-List.
Eisner was introduced to the company by Napster founder Shawn Fanning, who is an adviser. “I kept on going back to it,” Eisner tells me. One opportunity he sees is in tying the game to promotions for real movies. For instance, one of the movies players will be able to produce will be Burlesque, an upcoming Sony Pictures film starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. “You can imagine the confluence of the social networks, the real world, the PR world, the bit-part world, and the promotion world,” says Eisner. The game could also be expanded beyond movies to TV, fashion, and other parts of the entertainment world.