Trion, Telltale make play for video gaming

The video game industry gathered for its annual expo last week. Commonly known as E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year re-organized so the event would be low-key. The expo was open only to industry folk, the media and certain guests (a.k.a. celebs). Organizers say they made the change to allow for a more intimate atmosphere in which business would be emphasized.

There was still plenty to ooh and ahh at, including a bevy of booth babes. You can do your own search of blogs and photo-sharing website to find those pictures.

In regards to funding news, only one known gaming company announced a deal. That was Trion World Network Inc. (see Week in Deals, page 10). Launched last year by Lars Buttler, a former vice president at Electronic Arts, Trion is developing online video games based on the episodic model of TV shows. No deals have been inked yet, but you can imagine that shows such as Lost, in which characters can’t figure out how to get off an island, may one day be brought to a video game near you.

To get it off the ground, Trion has just received $30 million from Rustic Canyon and others, including such media giants as Time Warner Inc., NBC Universal and Bertelsmann AG. Similarly, about a month ago, Telltale Inc. pulled in $6 million in a Series B round from Granite Ventures and IDG Ventures SF. San Rafael, Calif.-based Telltale has a jump on Trion in that it has shipped about 10 titles so far, including games based on such TV shows as CSI and Law & Order.

So where is the gaming industry headed? In recent years, heavily funded Digital Chocolate Inc. and Glu Mobile (which is now publicly traded) have made a push for mobile gaming. Indeed, Trion’s Buttler, speaking at San Francisco gaming conference earlier this year, denounced dedicated game consoles and pointed to the growing gaming-related capabilities of PCs, claiming that they will soon render consoles obsolete. “The days of the console are numbered,” he said. “There is one more generation of gaming consoles and that is it.”