Indian conglomerate cracks 50% of Codemasters

Reliance Big Entertainment acquires half of Dirt publisher for undisclosed sum; racing, cricket franchises targeted.

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In June 2007, Balderton Capital expanded its holdings in Codemasters, building upon the 40 percent stake it had previously acquired to buy out the British game company's founders. Now, the venture capital firm will be sharing control of the publisher, as Reliance Big Entertainment announced today that it has acquired a 50 percent sharehold in Codemasters. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Reliance Big is keen on Codemasters' Dirt franchise.

Reliance Big Entertainment is the media arm of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, which is ranked among India's top three largest businesses. The entertainment company's Hollywood ventures include a partnership with Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider to form DreamWorks Studios, as well as development deals with production houses ranging from George Clooney's Smokehouse Productions to Brian Gazer and Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment

Reliance Big's investment in Codemasters will fall under the entertainment company's Zapak label. The Indian gaming company is primarily known as a provider of online casual games and boasts 8 million registered users through Zapak.com. Zapak also publishes a variety of massively multiplayer online games in India, including Runescape and Crazy Kart, creates mobile wares through its Jump Games division, and owns more than 100 Internet cafes.

"We are excited to partner with Codemasters and believe its very strong technology, development, and distribution presence will complement our global gaming portfolio," said Zapak CEO Rohit Sharma in a statement. "Additionally, Zapak's global strength in mobile gaming will enhance Codemasters' ability to fully leverage its attractive franchises such as its racing and cricket games."

Codemasters is perhaps best known for its racing franchises, which include Dirt, Grid, and Formula 1. Other franchises in the publisher's stable include cricket simulation The Ashes, Overlord, and Operation Flashpoint. The publisher also recently announced Bodycount from Black lead designer Stuart Black, which is due for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation during the first part of 2011.

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