News Corp. enters online games market

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It has long been speculated that video gaming is a missing piece in the portfolio of the world’s second largest media conglomerate. Now it emerged that the company’s first step into gaming is the acquisition of Irata Labs, the social software studio, best known for the Twitter-based game #Spymaster.

Irata Labs has three employees and develops games and other apps for social networks. It’s most popular project is #Spymaster, an espionage game where players use Twitter to perform spy activities, e.g. ordering assassinations, buying items on the black market or securing a safe house. Word is that #Spymaster is the first game to use a micro blogging platform. The developers are adding technology that will let #Spymaster incorporate the user’s location into gameplay.

#Spymaster is actually a side project of ilist.com; a venture for which Irata Labs has secured $1.5m in funding. iList lets users search Twitter feeds as they would classified ads to find items on sale sorted by ZIP code or category. A person close to the acquisition says that iList and #Spymaster shows that the company can develop ground breaking products which is what buyers such as News Corp. are looking for.

Irata Labs adds a new item to News Corp’s vast internet business but it is hardly the billion dollar buyout that everyone is expecting. The company will not be incorporated into either of News Corp’s major online platforms, IGN (the games review website) and MySpace. Instead developers at Irata Labs will work with those divisions as and when necessary.


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