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Reliances game for Codemasters stake

U.K. videogame publishing house makes cricket titles

Reliance Big Entertainment, which has been beefing up its investments in the film biz over the past, is starting to increase its stake in the videogame sector, as well.

The Indian conglom said Monday that it has acquired half of British gamemaker Codemasters Software. Financial details were not disclosed.

Reliance is part of the diversified Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, which put up $325 million to back DreamWorks last summer. Company also finances development and production deals with Imagine Entertainment, Tom Hanks’ Playtone and Brad Pitt’s Plan B.

The interest in Codemasters is an obvious one: The company not only produces the “Dirt” and “Formula 1” racing franchises and military actioner “Operation Flashpoint,” but is also behind the “The Ashes,” a cricket franchise that’s popular among Indians, Aussies and the British.

Reliance bought its 50% stake from Goldman Sachs, which was selling off its holdings in Codemasters. Venture capital firm Balderton Capital Management owns the other half in Codemasters, which generated around $150 million in revenue last year from game sales. Company was founded in a barn by two brothers, Richard and David Darling in 1986.

Reliance already was a player in the games biz with its Zapak Digital Entertainment division that operates more than 100 gaming cafes in 40 cities across India. It has more than 7 million registered users that play its online and mobile games created by Jump Games, which it owns. Codemasters’ stake should help it expand considerably with more high-profile games that are played on videogame consoles.

Codemasters’ titles are distributed in the U.S. by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, which, itself, has been pursuing more acquisitions of game companies to bolster its inhouse videogame arm.

Zapak Digital will oversee Reliance’s investment in Codemasters, and now use the publisher’s more popular games to broaden its online and mobile games business.

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