20th Cen­tury Fox buys game maker

Stu­dio’s FoxNext unit ac­quires Af­ter­shock, which spe­cial­izes in mul­ti­player ti­tles for mo­bile de­vices.

Los Angeles Times - - COMPANY TOWN - By David Ng david.ng@la­times.com Twitter: @DavidNgLAT

20th Cen­tury Fox wants to be a big­ger player in the video games busi­ness.

The Hol­ly­wood stu­dio said Tues­day that its FoxNext di­vi­sion has ac­quired Af­ter­shock, a cre­ator of mo­bile games that has stu­dios in Los An­ge­les and San Fran­cisco.

About 80 peo­ple from Af­ter­shock will join the FoxNext team of 40 in­di­vid­u­als. Fi­nan­cial terms of the trans­ac­tion were not dis­closed.

The deal comes at a time when ma­jor stu­dios are grap­pling with ways to reach younger au­di­ences who are con­sum­ing more en­ter­tain­ment on mo­bile de­vices.

Af­ter­shock spe­cial­izes in mul­ti­player games for mo­bile de­vices and has been work­ing with Light­storm En­ter­tain­ment on a game based on James Cameron’s 2009 block­buster “Avatar,” which was dis­trib­uted by 20th Cen­tury Fox.

The bou­tique com­pany was cre­ated in Fe­bru­ary as part of a spinoff from mo­bi­legame maker Kabam, which was re­cently ac­quired by the South Korean gam­ing com­pany NetMar­ble.

FoxNext it­self was just cre­ated in Jan­uary in an ef­fort to cen­tral­ize the stu­dio’s gam­ing, vir­tual re­al­ity and theme parks groups. The di­vi­sion is work­ing on projects in­clud­ing VR tie-ins with the stu­dio’s “Alien” and “Planet of the Apes” fran­chises, as well as the 20th Cen­tury Fox World theme park in Malaysia.

Fox has tra­di­tion­ally li­censed its in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty to game de­vel­op­ers and will con­tinue to do so, Salil Me­hta, pres­i­dent of FoxNext, said in an in­ter­view. Pre­vi­ously, the stu­dio has li­censed pop­u­lar ti­tles such as the “Ice Age” movies and the long-run­ning se­ries “The Simp­sons” and “Fam­ily Guy” to out­side game mak­ers.

The Af­ter­shock ac­qui­si­tion means that the stu­dio will be able to do more de­vel­op­ment in-house and re­tain greater control over cer­tain ti­tles, such as the “Avatar” game.

Fox de­clined to dis­cuss the re­lease date of the “Avatar” game.

Aaron Loeb, who served as pres­i­dent of Af­ter­shock, will take the ti­tle of pres­i­dent of stu­dios for FoxNext Games and will re­port to Me­hta.

The ac­qui­si­tion is in­tended to cap­i­tal­ize on Af­ter­shock’s ex­pe­ri­ence turn­ing pop­u­lar movies into games.

“There’s a real op­por­tu­nity for us to re­ally take ad­van­tage of the in­cred­i­ble in­no­va­tion tak­ing place and to work with our own sto­ry­tellers to of­fer them a can­vas to tell our sto­ries,” Me­hta said.

As Kabam, Af­ter­shock cre­ated games based on fran­chises in­clud­ing the “Fast & Fu­ri­ous” and “The Hob­bit.”

“The core DNA of Af­ter­shock was bring­ing iconic in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty to a mo­bile ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Kent Wake­ford, who served as chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Af­ter­shock.

Wake­ford said that he is join­ing Fox as a con­sul­tant but will not work there full time.

“Fox has been clear that they want to cre­ate one of the best mo­bile-game stu­dios in the in­dus­try,” Wake­ford said.

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