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Microsoft gets into games

Looking to expand its reach in the gaming business, Microsoft makes its first equity investment in a games developer.

Looking to expand its reach in the gaming business, Microsoft (MSFT) today announced its first equity investment in a games developer.

SingleTrac Entertainment, producer of Twisted Metal and WarHawk games, will co-publish game titles with Microsoft. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The deal also calls for Microsoft to receive exclusive rights to SingleTrac's titles published for Windows 95. That arrangement, however, applies only to titles that contain original content.

The companies have set no deadline for producing new titles, but more than one new game is expected to be launched in 1997, Microsoft spokeswoman Sue Barnes said. The contract is also open-ended with no specific expiration date, she noted.

The move is part of a Microsoft strategy that began at the end of last year with the acquisition of its first games producer, the Bruce Artwick Organization. The software giant unveiled 11 game titles at a trade show three months ago, and now the company's games division is looking to make new partnerships.

That is what led to discussions of developing titles with SingleTrac, Barnes said.

"We promised the industry that we're serious about delivering the broadest, most exciting range of PC games available anywhere," said Ed Fries, Microsoft's games group manager in a statement.

Under the deal, Microsoft receives worldwide distribution rights to several new titles SingleTrac is developing. SingleTrac, in turn, will receive a deep pocket of distribution and marketing resources while maintaining its autonomy, said Mike Ryder, SingleTrac chairman and president.