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Irish base for US online gaming giant to boost our 'smart economy'

Zynga, a major California-based developer of online games, such as Facebook's Farmville, is set to establish a base in Ireland, the Irish Independent has learned.

The move could prove a boon for the software development community and bolster the Government's attempts to promote the expansion of a so-called "smart economy" here.

Established just three years ago, San Francisco-headquartered Zynga is already estimated to be worth roughly $3bn (€2.1bn).

It develops games with well-known titles such as 'Mafia Wars' and 'Farmville' that are widely used by subscribers to social networking sites.

Zynga spokesperson Shernaz Daver confirmed the high-profile firm is in the process of setting up a base here.

"We are expanding our operations into Ireland and will have more to talk about later," she said.

She declined to elaborate on Zynga's precise plans, but the Irish Independent understands the company is plotting to establish a sizeable operation here that will create jobs for highly trained people, including software developers.

The presence of the company in Ireland will further raise the profile of the country as a home to emerging technologies and companies that are focused on exploiting the rapid ascent of firms such as Facebook, which has its European headquarters in Dublin.

Zynga generates most of its revenue by selling "virtual goods" to the games' users and its annualised revenues are already running at a rumoured $300m.


The firm is also reportedly profitable. Its 'Farmville' game has 83 million active users every month on Facebook and up to 31 million in any single day.

Established in 2007 by its current chief executive, Mark Pincus, and other members of the senior management team, Zynga has rapidly expanded.

It now employs close to 800 people between its US base in San Francisco and another office in Baltimore, Maryland. Last month, Zynga opened a development studio in Bangalore, India.

Zynga's employee base tripled last year.

Last December, Zynga raised $180m from investors that included Russia's Digital Sky Technologies, a company that also has a stake in Facebook.

Mr Pincus said the cash injection would eliminate the immediate need for Zynga to list on the stock exchange in order to raise funds.

Industry experts have previously speculated that Zynga could have raised between $1bn and $1.2bn in an initial public offering.

Other investors in Zynga include investment fund Andreessen Horowitz. One of the fund's principals, Marc Andreessen, is on the board of Facebook.

Mr Pincus said that the fresh investment would enable Zynga to hire more people and buy rival game development studios.

Computer games giant Electronic Arts recently paid up to $400m for one of Zynga's main rivals, Playfish. Zynga said this week that it has appointed a former senior Electronic Arts executive, Steven Chiang, as president of its development studios.

Investment bank ThinkEquity recently speculated that annual revenues in the US alone from social games could top $2.2bn by 2012.

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