Zynga Picks Up Mobile Gaming Startup Wild Needle In A Talent Deal

Zynga has picked up the team behind Wild Needle, a female-focused casual games company that was backed by Playdom co-founder Rick Thompson.

Wild Needle was raising funding back in late 2010 to build casual, mobile games for women and closed a round with Thompson and Shasta Ventures. They didn’t release their first title until more than a year later in March (which is a pretty long time to be building a casual, freemium game). It was called Shoptown Hero and it looks like it lasted in the store for about a month before they pulled it two weeks ago.

On the surface, Shoptown Hero looks like many of the casual sim games that were popular in early 2011 on iOS. In the game, players have to save a small town from a tycoon named Fat Ralph. They have to fill their stores with virtual goods and sell them. The twist is that they have to negotiate prices with customers to earn profits. After launching, the game didn’t manage to break into the top free apps category in the U.S. and remained ranked in the smaller ‘Kids’ and ‘Education’ categories in the app store (see the App Annie chart below).

We hear this was a talent-sized deal, which is in line with most Zynga acquisitions. Zynga usually does smaller deals in the $5 to 20 million range for teams of game developers. But it has bumped up spending over the last year and a half, as the value of Zynga’s equity has become priced in and even declined over the last year. OMGPOP, for example, took all cash in its $180 million acquisition. Another small developer Zynga picked up recently was GameDoctors, which makes Zombie Smash.

Also worth noting: Wild Needle is Thompson’s second exit in the past month after another company he backed, Funzio, got picked up by GREE for $210 million. We reached out to Zynga for comment. A few employees have already changed their LinkedIn profiles. One of Wild Needle’s investors Rob Coneybeer, also talked about the deal to The Wall Street Journal (although we heard about it separately).