£300m deal is a real game changer for Clumsy Ninja

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Business Editor. Call me on 01865 425460

A VIDEO games company has been snapped up by an American industry giant in a £300m deal.

Jericho-based NaturalMotion is set for further expansion thanks to the takeover by US software giant Zynga.

The firm, set up 13 years ago by Oxford graduate Torsten Reil, is best known for its CSR Racing and Clumsy Ninja games.

Mr Reil said: “Zynga’s expertise in social game play and large-scale game operations will be invaluable to helping us grow our existing CSR and Clumsy Ninja franchises and maximise the potential of our upcoming titles.

“We’ve reached our first milestones creating top-grossing and top-free titles on our own.

“We can’t wait to see what we can achieve together with Zynga.”

Clumsy Ninja, launched in November last year, generated eight million downloads in its first week and counts Culture Minister and Wantage MP Ed Vaizey among its fans.

In the game, for iPhones and iPads, players train their own virtual ninja to perform a range of tasks.

NaturalMotion employs 260 staff in Oxford, London, Brighton and San Francisco and the deal with US software giant Zynga is expected to create more jobs at its St Ebbe’s Street headquarters, although head of operations Kevin Allington would not confirm how many.

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There are 13 vacancies for jobs in Oxford advertised on the firm’s website but Mr Allington said these were created before the takeover.

San Francisco-based Zynga, which has a turnover of £529m, stumped up £319m for NaturalMotion, through a mix of cash and shares.

It is best-known for FarmVille, Words With Friends and Zynga Poker and has 112 million monthly users.

Mr Reil, 39, who co-founded NaturalMotion as a spin-out from Oxford University, was a doctoral researcher in neural systems and programmed computer simulations that mimicked human and animal movements.

He and his team revolutionised games animation, by developing software called Euphoria that mirrors the human nervous system to create life-like characters which react to changing on-screen situations.

NaturalMotion licences this technology to other games developers for use in top console and mobile games and movies, including Grand Theft Auto and Lord of the Rings.

Under the Zynga deal, the Jericho firm will continue to release games under the NaturalMotion brand.

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