CrowdStar Secures $23 Million Series A Funding From Intel, Time Warner, The9

Social game developer CrowdStar nets a $23 million investment this week in a series A round led by Intel and Time Warner with participation from Chinese game publisher The9 and from NVInvestments.

Peter Relan, CEO of CrowdStar, tells us that the funding will go primarily toward expanding CrowdStar’s reach beyond Facebook onto other platforms and into other regions through hiring and development. The participation from The9, he says, confirms that there’s a large potential audience in China that the developer could tap if it had the resources to develop its games for non-Facebook platforms and localize them for China, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries.

Key to success in Asia is the mobile platform, on which CrowdStar has only recently begun to release its games, which is where the support from Intel comes in. Intel has also invested in OpenFeint, a mobile-focused sister project to CrowdStar formed out of the YouWeb incubator.

“Our focus on mobile is most important right now,” Relan says. “We believe social gaming is going beyond Facebook and mobile [eventually]. In a year, we’ll look at investing in [expanding onto] smart TVs.”

Relan says that CrowdStar aims to reach a potential audience of 2 billion alone on smartphones and “highly capable” feature phones. In Asia, Relans says there maybe 1 billion gamers that “want It Girl.” In order to get its games in front of those audiences as quickly as possible, CrowdStar hopes to double its staff this year to around 200 employees by investing about 80% of this series A funding into game development talent to adapt existing games and create new one. The rest will go toward globalization and localization of existing CrowdStar games.

This round of funding represents the first time CrowdStar has ever raised funding from investors for its projects. Previously, the developer was funded primarily from its own profits, but Relan says that the social games market is in a unique place that CrowdStar needs to take advantage of.

“Every major industry has three independent leaders,” Relan explains. “Over several years, three, maybe four wind up dominating the space. Playdom cashed out early. It’s really just Zynga and maybe one other left. And CrowdStar [has the chance] to remain one of the few independent social game developers with long term [potential].”

Beyond Asia and platform expansion, CrowdStar will get support from investors Time Warner in the form of branded intellectual property. CrowdStar hasn’t announced any new games as of yet, but Relan recently told us we could expect to see a new title this quarter.

CrowdStar has seen some gradual losses in monthly and daily active users across all its games in the last three months, according to our traffic tracking service, AppData. down about 10 million in MAU to today’s levels of 29.1 million and down 2 million in DAU to today’s 2.4 million figure. Its largest game, It Girl, accounts for 8 million of its total MAU and almost 800,000 of its DAU.

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