Report: Disney eyes $500 mil Playdom buy

5:37 PM PST 07/23/2010 by Georg Szalai, AP

Social gaming firm behind Mobsters, Big City Life

Could Duckburg become the new Farmville?

The Walt Disney Co. seems to have an eye on bringing more of its characters and brands into the red-hot social gaming world that has taken social networks like Facebook by storm.

Tech blog TechCrunch and the Wall Street Journal on Friday reported Disney is talking about an acquisition of social gaming firm Playdom, in which it is already an investor, for more than $500 million.

The news comes after Zynga, the firm behind such hit social games as Farmville, emerged as one of the hottest up-and-comers at the recent Allen & Co. media mogul gathering in Sun Valley earlier this month. It also comes at a time when Disney and other entertainment giants have looked to build a growing footprint in the gaming space.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Playdom boasts the No. 1 game on MySpace with Mobsters, in which players must try to rise in the crime ranks. Other games include socialite training camp Big City Life, city building and management game Social City, action-strategy game Wild Ones, chip-earning challenge Poker Palace and vampire game Bloodlines.

On its website, Playdom also touts more than 38 million monthly active users, compared to more than 200 million for Zynga, and says "we may be the fastest growing social gaming company on the planet." Its CEO is John Pleasants who previously was COO and president of publishing at Electronic Arts.

Disney owns a stake in Playdom, which makes most of its revenue from selling virtual goods and some from advertising, via its venture investment arm Steamboat Ventures. Disney already has a deal with the firm to develop social games for ESPN.

Disney and Playdom weren't immediately available for comment Friday afternoon.
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