Japanese gaming company buys OpenFeint for $104 million

by Phil Hornshaw

Mobile gaming social networking company OpenFeint must be doing something right -- it was just purchased by a Japanese social gaming company, GREE, for $104 million.

From the sounds of the deal, GREE isn’t shaking up OpenFeint too much, and the company will continue to serve its 75 million players and 19,000 developers over 5,000 games on Android and Apple’s iOS operating system, according to Pocket Gamer. CEO and founder Jason Citron and his team will continue with the company.

GREE has 25 million users in Japan and is quickly trying to expand globally, but the company says it isn’t planning to merge OpenFeint with the GREE network. Instead, OpenFeint will continue to operate the way that it does in the west with GREE working to help it continue to grow quickly and increase and expand its services.

"We are excited that GREE shares our belief in the OpenFeint network and are ecstatic to partner with a renowned global leader to build a multi-billion dollar business," said Citron in a press release. "Together, we will deliver the strongest global ecosystem of gaming networks to our combined 100 million users."

The acquisition of OpenFeint is another on a long list of mobile gaming companies snapping each other up over the last year. During 2010, Zynga bought NewToy, Firemint combined with Infinite Interactive, Chillingo was purchased by Electronic Arts and ngmoco was acquired by Japanese gaming network DeNA for more than $400 million.

But OpenFeint’s sale is probably great news for mobile gamers in general, and especially for Android gamers in particular. OpenFeint has been making serious strides to increase its presence on Android, and not only that, but to increase the presence of gaming on the platform altogether. It has invested in bringing games from the iPhone and iPad to Android by offering developers incentives along with Chinese online game operator The9, and together the two companies created a $100 million fund to make it easier for developers to make the leap to Google’s platform.

With Android continuing to gobble up huge chunks of the smartphone market, companies like OpenFeint are going to continue to bring more great apps into the fold, so the fact that OpenFeint is going to have more resources behind it is only good news -- especially because it doesn’t sound like GREE wants to mess with the company at all. OpenFeint is working, and working well. Sounds to me like this acquisition is just going to give OpenFeint more muscle to keep doing what it does best.