Is Zynga’s NaturalMotion Acquisition a Game-Changing Move?


Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) recently acquired NaturalMotion, a U.K.-based games and technology company, in a move that could signal a new strategy for the social game services provider. As reported by TechCrunch, Zynga has previously concentrated on exploiting popular game categories by quickly pushing out “cookie-cutter” titles and heavily advertising them.

In this sense, NaturalMotion’s overall approach to game design may be the most valuable asset that Zynga acquired in the deal. NaturalMotion has a much more detail-oriented and methodical approach to game design, which is almost the opposite of Zynga’s typical style. NaturalMotion CEO Torsten Reil’s careful approach to game design was epitomized by the company’s long-awaited Clumsy Ninja mobile game release, said TechCrunch.

“We want to get the game right,” Reil told the publication. “We want to make people laugh and smile. We don’t want to design it to be a hard-core monetizing game. It has to be a delightful, wholesome experience.”

Besides refreshing its company culture with a mobile game developer that focuses on quality, Zynga has also gained several proprietary technologies and hit games. Per Re/Code, NaturalMotion is the company behind the animation engines Euphoria and Morpheme. The software is also widely used by other film and game companies.

“At their core, they have a breakthrough tools and tech pipeline which I believe will become more and more valuable as tablets and phones increase in their performance capability,” Zynga CEO Don Mattrick said to Re/Code. Mattrick took over as chief executive from company co-founder Mark Pincus in July, and his leadership may be one of the reasons why the company has adjusted its overall strategy.

“NaturalMotion’s hit mobile games, CSR Racing and Clumsy Ninja, are in the popular consumer categories of Racing and People simulation,” Zynga noted in a press release. “NaturalMotion possesses industry leading technology and tools and its proven simulation technologies have powered some of the biggest console games and blockbuster movies.”

Zynga announced that it bought NaturalMotion for $527 million on Thursday, the same day it announced its better-than-expected financial results for the fourth quarter. The company’s strong quarterly results, the acquisition of NaturalMotion, and an additional round of layoffs helped Zynga’s shares close up 84 cents, or 23.6 percent, on Friday.

“Our market is growing as measured by device, audience and dollars and we have the privilege to compete in one of the fastest growing parts of the entertainment industry,” said Mattrick in the company’s earnings release. ”We have an ambitious agenda and we are moving quickly to add capabilities that are complementary and strategic to our core growth plans.”

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