July 2, 2010 3:42 am
The deal, which will be announced imminently, is for an undisclosed sum and is the first of its kind for Disney, which is keen to expand its presence in mobile games. The company has already acquired two development studios – one based in China and one in the Czech Republic – but the Tapulous deal is the first to involve a developer of applications – popularly known as “apps”.
The Tapulous deal validates an economic model that did not exist until two years ago, when Apple launched the App Store. Since then, thousands of programmers have tried to get their wares distributed on the platform, which has close to 100m users.
Big media companies such as Disney are monitoring the apps industry with increasing interest, competing with games companies, such as Electronic Arts, for popular developers.
With initial public offerings of mobile games developers still rare, the interest of Disney and its rivals broadens the number of potential exits for investors in apps companies.
Tapulous makes mobile games in the vein of Activision’s Guitar Hero. Its most popular title, Tap Tap Revenge, allows players to tap their iPhone to the beat of a song. Tapulous generates revenues from a range of sources: its games are free but players pay to buy particular songs.
The Disney deal will see Bart Decrem, founder of Tapulous, join Disney to help manage its mobile games division. The deal was struck by Disney’s Interactive Media Group.
Bob Iger, Disney’s chief executive, has taken a great interest in the iPad and hailed it as a potential “game-changer” for the media industry.
The Disney ABC Player app has been downloaded more than 850,000 times since the iPad was launched in April, with more than 4.5m episodes of ABC programmes played on the device.
The studio’s latest film, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, is the first new release to be offered via its movies app, along with other Disney movies that are already in cinemas. “The Disney movie app provides fans with a dynamic and engaging experience,” said Greg Brandeau, chief technology officer of Walt Disney Studios.
The app can also connect consumers directly to online retailers such to purchase Disney movies on Blu-ray or DVD.
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