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Zynga Buys CSR Developer NaturalMotion

Social gaming giant in "pays obscene amount of money for small developer" shocker.

Social gaming giant Zynga has been somewhat quiet for a while, but today news emerged of the biggest acquisition in the company's history.

Zynga's previous record for acquisitions was when it paid a hefty $180 million for Draw Something creator OMGPOP in 2012. OMGPOP promptly vanished off the face of the planet, and Zynga attempted to recapture the popularity of Draw Something with an ill-advised sequel that didn't take long to sink without a trace due to the fact it wasn't sure if it wanted to be Draw Something or Instagram.

That deal has been eclipsed by the gigantic sum the company paid for CSR Racing developer NaturalMotion: $527 million.

CSR Racing, a microtransaction-riddled free-to-play mobile drag racing game in which you don't have to steer but the graphics are quite pretty, was originally the work of Boss Alien, a team made up of refugees from Split/Second developer Black Rock Studios. It proved enormously successful for the developer, which led to them subsequently being acquired by NaturalMotion, a company that had previously been known for some very realistic dice apps on iOS -- oh, and animation middleware used in some of the world's biggest-selling games such as Grand Theft Auto IV and BioShock Infinite.

Former Xbox boss Don Mattrick, who now runs Zynga, said that "we believe bringing Zynga and NaturalMotion together is the right step at the right time. Our acquisition of NaturalMotion will allow us to significantly expand our creative pipeline, accelerate our mobile growth and bring next-generation technology and tools to Zynga that we believe will fast-track our ability to deliver more hit games. Their creative portfolio aligns perfectly with our content strategy as Zynga will not have five top brands and capabilities in the Farm, Casino, Words, Racing and People categories."

Doesn't that just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside? No? Well, let's add a touch more gloom, then: alongside the hugely expensive deal, Zynga also announced it planned to let 314 employees go in an attempt to cut costs -- that's 15 per cent of its total workforce. Nice.

It's not clear where the Zynga deal leaves NaturalMotion's middleware business. Zynga has a habit -- as seen with OMGPOP -- of acquiring companies, gutting them and then effectively leaving them to rot, so it remains to be seen whether the company's impressive Euphoria and Morpheme animation systems, seen in GTAIV and BioShock Infinite respectively, will survive this transition period.

Tags: bossalien csrracing naturalmotion News Zynga

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