Following last month’s announcement by MCA that it was forming a new unit to develop and publish interactive software, the company has made a large-scale investment in Interplay Prods. Inc., a significant player in the interactive software publishing world.

Under the arrangement, MCA has purchased a significant minority share of Interplay’s stock, becoming the company’s sole outside investor. MCA was also granted additional options to increase its minority position.

The Irvine-based Interplay, which was founded 10 years ago as an independent developer of interactive entertainment software, is known for a string of best-selling titles, including “Battle Chess,””Mario Teaches Typing,””Star Trek: 25th Anniversary Enhanced CD-ROM” and “Clay Fighter.”

Attracted to MCA

While Silicon Valley sources said that Interplay had been courted by numerous Hollywood entities, it was MCA’s diversity and the fact that the company just started an interactive division that convinced Interplay to go with MCA, a fact acknowledged by Interplay executives.

“This transaction offered us the opportunity to bring together everything MCA has to offer — books, movies, records, licensing and theme parks — with our expertise in interactive entertainment,” Interplay’s president, Brian Fargo, said in a statement. “I’m excited that Interplay will now have access to such a huge library of properties and talent from MCA.”

According to Robert Biniaz, MCA Interactive’s chief operating officer, the investment in Interplay will not conflict with MCA’s own in-house operation.

MCA’s strategy

“It is part of our strategy,” Biniaz said. “We have modeled our company after a movie studio, and we want in-house production, as well having relationships with outside companies.”

Asked if Universal Interactive will hold onto the titles generated by the company’s film division, Biniaz said, “We intend to place titles and content from Universal with Interplay.”

As announced last month, MCA’s new interactive division will be fully staffed and will develop properties in-house, as well as working with outside developers. MCA stated at the time that the division hoped to make alliances within the software community, including acquisitions of, and investments in, existing software companies.

‘Jurassic’ title planned

Not surprisingly, the new division’s first endeavor will be “Jurassic Park Interactive,” a software title for the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer system that will be released early in 1994. MCA and Matsushita are equity partners of the 3 DO Company, with Skip Paul as their representative on the 3DO Board of Directors.

It is also expected that UNI Distribution Corp., a unit of MCA Music Entertainment Group, will play an important role in the distribution network for MCA’s new interactive software titles.