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Rockstar founders aim for internet

Gamemaker forms new web venture 4mm Games

Rockstar Games pushed boundaries with its “Grand Theft Auto” franchise. Now the co-founders of the company have formed vidgame venture 4mm Games and hope to reinvent the rollout of new titles using the Web.

The Gotham-based company, headed by former Rockstar toppers Jamie King and Gary Foreman as prexy and chief technology officer, respectively, plans to introduce properties online or through such mobile platforms as the iPhone before expanding them to consoles from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

It’s a strategy that should essentially enable 4mm to test-market titles while building a fanbase for properties by introducing content and a range of other tie-ins to extend interest in the games.

Even more importantly, however, it’s a way to combat the growing effect of digital on the $12 billion software biz. Piracy is starting to take a toll on publishers’ bottom lines, but so are online rental firms — in the same way they’ve reduced revenue for the film and music industries.

“It is an utterly unprecedented time in the history of videogames, as the Web and new business models disrupt the existing value chain,” said Nicholas Perrett, a former Image Metrics exec who serves as CEO of 4mm Games.

In addition to Perrett, 4mm’s founders have recruited former NBC and Warner Music exec Paul Coyne as exec VP.

He most recently was senior adviser to Def Jam Enterprises and senior adviser and senior VP for Warner Music Group, where he directed videogame strategies for the companies. Before that, he co-founded Abandon Interactive Entertainment as a vidgamemaker with GE Capital and NBC Sports and served as VP and chief technology officer for NBC.

Backing 4mm is investment group CEA Autumn Games, focused on the vidgame biz. Details on the financing were not disclosed, but the pact with CEA covers multiple years and titles.

At Rockstar, King and Foreman launched “Grand Theft Auto,” “Midnight Club,” “Max Payne” and “Bully,” which sold more than 70 million units combined.

Two undisclosed titles are being developed at 4mm, with the first expected to bow within a year, the company said.

As an indie outfit, 4mm isn’t looking to partner up with a single publisher to distribute its titles; instead, it’s seeking to set up properties at various companies. It may also distribute games on its own, especially on mobile or other digital properties.

When it comes to online games, 4mm isn’t looking to produce massively multiplayer titles but more casual titles.

“There are lots of people who don’t want to play men-in-tights games,” Coyne said. “There’s a huge audience already online who want to play games relevant to them.”

That includes women, who remain a relatively untapped demo by gamemakers.

“It’s a super-underserved market that we’ll be going after,” Coyne said.

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