Color me surprised:
The names of most of them haven’t been disclosed, but we can confirm that Microsoft did purchase the virtual world Vivaty this summer.
Vivaty, a 3D virtual world that had raised more than $9.4 million in backing from investors including Kleiner Perkins, shut down in April, saying it was out of money. At the time, Founder Keith McCurdy, a former VP at Electronic Arts (NSDQ: ERTS), told told VentureBeat that the company was in the final stages of being sold and that its IP would be used “as the foundation for something else.” The buyer was Microsoft, McCurdy tells us in an e-mail.
It’s not clear why Microsoft bought Vivaty and McCurdy wouldn’t say. But Microsoft seems to have a specific interest in gaming companies. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reported this week that Microsoft was making “overtures” to various social gaming companies, including possibly Second Life parent Linden Lab. (A commenter on her post mentioned that Microsoft had quietly purchased Vivaty, prompting me to check.)
Virtual worlds are an odd category for Microsoft to be interested in, considering that the business seems to be falling out of favor with both investors and users, and several, including Metaplace, Vivaty and There.com, have shut down in recent months. Even Linden Lab is said to be struggling. CEO Mark Kingdon resigned in June, a few weeks after the company cut 30 percent of its staff.
(By the way, the 9.4MM number doesn’t surprise me at all. Vivaty used their own engine, so they probably had a lot of up-front development costs).