London-based mobile game provider I-play will be acquired by New York-based Oberon Media for an undisclosed sum, with the deal expected to close at the end of June. The combined company will have between 400-500 employees and global distribution partnerships with more than 350 partners.
Oberon Media (which hosts MSN Games, amongst others) has a strong online presence, and the purchase of I-play is intended to let it offer an integrated casual game solution across multiple platforms — online, mobile and TV. One of the key attractions of I-play was its proprietary platform for porting games across different handsets and carriers, which the companies will integrate with Oberon’s platform. The different games of the two companies will also be extended across each others platforms. “I wouldn’t say 100 percent should be covered on all the screens, but many of them do,” Oberon CEO Tomer Ben-Kiki told MocoNews.
I-play Brand Kept: The I-play brand will be kept (the strong consumer brand was listed by Ben-Kiki as another reason for Oberon buying I-play) and Oberon will roll out all its mobile media and mobile games under the I-play brand in the future.
Community: Oberon has an advanced community platform for its online games, and will integrate I-play’s mobile games into that, so that players can “get an identity that is screen agnostic”. In fact, this community is viewed by Oberon as one of the key cornerstones of the service, with the company intending to use games as a hub for people to form communities around.
D2C: I-play CEO David Gosen told MocoNews that Oberon’s huge global online distribution network will be used to drive awareness of mobile gaming. I-play has some direct-to-consumer efforts happening, mainly in Scandinavia, and Gosen said that I-play would “continue to work with carriers, but also go direct to consumer”. I asked whether the companies are planning a side-loading distribution method by selling mobile games via Oberon’s distribution network, and Gosen replied that they’re not making any new product announcements at the moment, but will be doing so in the future. In regards to its recent deal with Universal for a mobile video service dubbed Hollywood Movie Minutes I-play said it “is always looking for ways to broaden the distribution for some of the best video available on mobile”.
UPDATE: Digital Media Wire notes a figure of $110-120 million is being bandied about.