Blog interruptus (at least for regular TV readers): Irvine game developer Red 5 Studios, which has been struggling to put out a game at the same level of the founders’ former employer Blizzard Entertainment, has received $20 million from a new investor, The9 Limited in China.
According to a company statement, The9′s $20 million gives the Chinese company a majority interest in the local game studio.
UPDATE: Mark Kern, Red 5′s CEO who previously was lead developer for World of Warcraft, responded to a request for comment about the new investor:
“I’d like to say that this investment has been a great validation of the work we’ve been doing here. It’s also an interesting comment on the rise of Asian game development and increasing desire to expand into western markets. We’ve spoken to many publishers in the region, and all seem more eager and more able to tackle online gaming in the West than most US companies.” (added March 23, 2010)
It’s an interesting mix, considering Red 5′s founders hail from the almighty Blizzard Entertainment, the Irvine company behind the massively popular World of Warcraft. Last year, Blizzard cut ties with The9, which had been handling Blizzard’s China operation. Gamers in China lost access to WoW until Blizzard hired NetEase to handle the game’s operation there.
Red 5 launched in Aliso Viejo in late 2006 with a $18.5 million investment from Benchmark Capital and Sierra Adventures. The company was founded by Mark Kern, who led the development of World of Warcraft; Bill Petras, art director for the game; and Taewon Yun, who co-founded Blizzard’s Korea office and was responsible for launching the game in Asia. But beyond the founders’ heritage, Red 5 appeared to have no game plan or deadline. Their goal was to build another massively multiplayer venture.
The company has been pretty quiet ever since. But earlier this year, reports from the game industry said Red 5 was down to a skeleton crew after substantial layoffs.
But it definitely looks like Red 5 is still alive. The company has been updating anyone who visits its Web site since February, not to mention it has posted 7 jobs since late February (one has since been filled). The company also offers strangers a look at what it’s been working on.
“Red 5 is a creator of innovative entertainment software, designing games that focus on ease of play and fun,” The9’s Chief Executive Jun Zhu said in a statement Monday. “With the acquisition, The9’s global strategy is beginning to take shape. It will further enhance our game development capability and diversify our game portfolio and pipeline. I believe our collaboration will create new and exciting entertainment content for people around the world.”
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