Google Acqu-hires Game Maker LabPixies

Hardly a week goes by now without Google buying another company, as it continues an acquisition spree first described by CEO Eric Schmidt last fall, when he said it would likely buy one small company a month. This week’s winner is an Israeli startup called Labpixies, which develops casual games for both the web and mobile devices. The company’s games — which include Flood-It and Round ‘Em Up — are among the most popular on iGoogle, the start page service that the search giant created back when Netvibes was all the rage. Google said in a blog post that it acquired Labpixies outright because “we decided we could do more if we were part of the same team.” Although the purchase price has not been announced, an Israeli news site reports that Google paid $25 million for the company.

Google’s last acqu-hire was a London-based company called Plink, a visual search startup it bought to add more horsepower to its Google Goggles mobile visual search project. The search company has also bought several startups that were founded by former Google employees, including Aardvark, AppJet and ReMail.

In addition to games, Labpixies has also developed a number of the more popular apps and widgets for iGoogle — including the New York Times crossword widget, a horoscope app, a Travelocity widget and a YouTube app. According to Google’s blog post, the company was the first developer to create an independent widget for the iGoogle service. Many of the company’s games and widgets are also available for the iPhone and Android.

Could the Labpixies acquisition be a sign that Google is interested in moving further into the casual gaming market, which has been a huge success for Facebook and Zynga with “social games” such as Mafia Wars and Farmville? The search company recently named game veteran Mark DeLoura its “game developer advocate,” a new position designed to reach out to the gaming industry, which seems to be a sign that it wants to expand in that market.

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