The online gaming industry continues to plow ahead, recession be damned. Gazillion Entertainment, a startup that develops multiplayer online (MMO) games, announced this morning that it has reached an agreement with Marvel Entertainment (NYSE: MVL) to license Marvel's 5,000-plus superhero brands for use in its online games. The games are currently in development, but the first slate of releases will include Marvel characters Iron Man, Hulk, Wolverine, Thor, Fantastic Four and Captain America.
Until now, Gazillion has been operating as NR2B Research and hadn't released details about the games it had in development, which in addition to Marvel characters include games called LEGO Universe and Jumpgate Evolution. The management team comes from Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Blizzard Entertainment, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Game Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, and CEO Rob Hutter is also a partner at one of the company's investors, Revolution Ventures. Additional investors include Oak Investment Partners, Hearst Interactive Media, UV Partners and the Founders Fund. Marvel's model of licensing its brands to entertainment properties and producing its own movies has been paying dividends recently. Fueled by the success of its Iron Man franchise, the company reported strong fourth-quarter 2008 results in February.
As we noted in a piece last week, the online-gaming industry has been one of the few bright spots in the startup world, as many other new companies have been cut off from critical capital. Gaming sites appear to be benefiting from business models that include both advertising and commerce, which resulted in three fundings last week.
By Rory Maher