News Corp. snags game developer Irata Labs


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News Corp. chief digital officer Jon Miller has talked about video games as a missing piece of the company’s online strategy.

Now, the first of the puzzle pieces has fallen into place.

News Corp. has acquired Irata Labs, a three-person San Francisco developer that builds games and other applications for social networks. Terms of the deal, closed late last week, were not disclosed.


Irata is best known for creating Spymaster, an espionage game that lets players use Twitter to perform cloak-and-dagger activities, such as ordering assassinations, securing a safe house or buying items on the black market. It’s believed to be the first game to use the microblogging platform. The developers also are building the technology that would allow it to incorporate a user’s location into game play.

One of Irata’s first offerings, iList Micro, let users search Twitter as they would classified advertising sections, to find items offered for sale by ZIP code or category.

‘The fact they built a social classified offering, iList, then they built a Twitter game -- these guys have shown they can be mold-breakers with great product. And that’s what we care about,’ said a person close to the acquisition.

Irata won’t be incorporated into either of News Corp.’s major online assets, the MySpace social network or the game review site IGN. Instead, the developers are expected to work with those divisions whenever it makes sense, said a person familiar with the matter.

The game company received early-stage backing from Dmitry Shapiro, founder of Veoh Networks, entrepreneur Alex Bard and venture capital fund Draper Fisher Jurvetson, which has backed companies such as the Internet phone service Skype and Chinese search engine Baidu.

--Dawn C. Chmielewski

News Corporation digital media executive Jon Miller answers a question during the Abu Dhabi Media Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Credit: Jack Dabaghian / Getty Images)