PlayFirst Raises $9.2 Million to Keep Making Social Games

Casual gaming company PlayFirst, best known for publishing the Diner Dash series, is announcing a $9.2 million funding this morning, split between venture capital and debt.

Venture fundings for social game companies have been relatively thin this year, but PlayFirst has the right reputation — Diner Dash has been downloaded over half a billion times on various platforms, with other franchises hitting the tens of millions.

The company’s achievements on Facebook are more modest, with its only game on the platform, Chocolatier: Sweet Society, taking over four months to pass 800,000 monthly active users. Like many other games from first-time Facebook publishers, Chocolatier appears to have had some scaling and stability issues that discouraged users.

PlayFirst CEO Mari Baker says that Chocolatier was essentially a practice run. “We were researching social game companies and looking at what their path was, before CrowdStar got to millions, or ZipZapPlay hit it big with Baking Life. Most of these companies had several games under their belt, and months of learning time if not longer. So we think Chocolatier was a good effort, just not what we view as being success or the end game.”

Now that PlayFirst’s learning period is over, it’s time for the company to put more valuable IP on the table.  “There’s a benefit to entering with some brand awareness , it increases virality, decreases acquisition costs. Over time we’ll move to introducing new IP, but [our history] gives us an advantage,” says Baker.

Whether that specifically means Diner Dash is next for Facebook, Baker wouldn’t say, but it’s probably not unreasonable to expect that a social version of the game is already in the works.

Mayfield Fund, Trinity Partners, DCM and Rustic Canyon Ventures provided the $5.2 million in venture financing; the rest was debt. All of the money will be turned towards PlayFirst’s social efforts.