Foundation 9 Amazed

Indie developer picks up another studio; lays claim to being world's biggest independent game creator.

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In news that will be formally announced later today, Foundation 9 has acquired another development studio. Tapping a seemingly bottomless bucket of cash tendered by Francisco Partners, the upstart developer/publisher has acquired Amaze Entertainment, a studio with a history of developing handheld titles.

Amaze, based in both Austin, Texas, and Kirkland, Washington, has brought more than 100 titles to market, according to the company. Its catalog has included handheld titles based on licenses for properties including The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Pirates of the Caribbean; the studio is also responsible for numerous handheld versions of The Sims.

Foundation 9 made news last month when it bought Shiny Entertainment from Atari. While today's news is less spectacular, it further boosts Foundation 9's dream of being an independent game development powerhouse--in size, at least. The studio system of Foundation 9 includes The Collective, Backbone Entertainment, Pipeworks, ImaginEngine, and Digital Eclipse.

GameSpot spoke with Foundation 9 CEO Jon Goldman, who delved into the acquisition.

GameSpot: Why Amaze? The studio seems to mirror what handheld developer Digital Eclipse already does for Foundation 9. Can you explain what Amaze will be doing and comment on my assessment of overlap?

Jon Goldman: Amaze is a well-established company in handheld games. Between it and Digital Eclipse, there is amazingly (no pun intended) little overlap in terms of publisher relationships, which allows us to further cement a position of leadership in handheld gaming. But Amaze is much more than a handheld developer. There is platform diversity and expertise that will flourish along with Foundation 9. Equally important, we believe strongly in how Amaze runs things at both the corporate and studio level. Foundation 9 has been extending our footprint dramatically in the independent video game development space, and with Amaze on board, things should only accelerate.

GS: Have you depleted the Francisco funding, or is there more to work with? What else do you have your eyes on in terms of acquisitions?

JG: Depleted? I actually don't think that's possible. These folks need to sew extra pockets in their trousers to hold all their cash! That is a joke, of course, because they are generally vain dressers and wouldn't commit that kind of sartorial faux pas. That's also a joke. The point here is only partially to sidestep the question: Francisco has made an initial financial commitment to us--large by anyone's standards--and as long as we can find investment opportunities which accrete value, whether internal or external, Francisco will be there to support our efforts. Deploying capital is their business, not holding on to it.

GS: Do any staffers of Amaze get laid off?

JG: Layoffs do not drive our strategy. In general, we're looking at joining together with healthy, growing businesses which can benefit even further through achieving a larger scale and accessing greater resources (whether financial, management, or otherwise). It's not about acquiring assets to strip them down; that would simply be counterproductive.

Strong independent game development not only benefits small studios and their employees: It's absolutely a critical component to ensuring reliable product delivery to our publishing partners. Considering the level of risk publishers are facing in the platform transitions right now, I'm sure they would agree.

GS: Thanks, Jon.

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