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Two remaining employees of Play140 picked up by Oomba, new 'digital objects' startup from Atari's founder

Posted by Scott Kirsner  April 24, 2012 09:29 PM

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Play140 was built atop one of those concepts that either could've caught fire...or not. The premise was that Twitter, in addition to being a communications channel, could also be a place for people to play word games with one another. The Cambridge company's first game, The Acronym Game, invited players to develop the cleverest phrase to accompany a random string of letters.

shawnb.jpgWell, T.A.G.N.Q.B.O. (The Acronym Game Never Quite Broke Out.) Last August, the company's Twitter account and blog went quiet. Play140 employees — including two of the three founders — started finding other jobs. By this month, only chief executive Shawn Broderick (pictured at right) and CTO Michael Johnson were left.

Tonight, Broderick announced on the company's blog that the company was being acquired for an undisclosed amount by Oomba, a stealthy California startup. One of the company's founders is Nolan Bushnell, best known for creating Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, and also inventing the early videogame Pong. Broderick, now Oomba's president, tells me that the company will soon be headquartered in Massachusetts.

Oomba's profile page on AngelList describes the company this way:

Oomba is a Digital Object Trading™ platform that communicates with the virtual goods databases of online and mobile games through a secure, robust protocol. Working with the voluntary cooperation of game publishers, transactions can be initiated, escrowed and recorded by Oomba with complete accountability to the buyers and sellers.

(Broderick says Oomba has raised money from angels and a venture capital firm, but hasn't yet disclosed the details.)

Play140's blog post says they'll keep The Acronym Game going, but this seems like an acqhire. Broderick boasts in the blog post that "Play140 has deep experience in the markets that Oomba is going after," but this seems to refer not to developing games for Twitter, but to the prior company that Broderick and Johnson started together, Genetic Anomalies, which was an early mover in the online collectibles space.

Broderick ran the TechStars Boston accelerator program for its first two years, before leaving in 2010 to focus on Play140. Play140 had raised about $500,000 from Vermont angel investor Ty Danco, as well as Ojas Venture Partners of India and SOS Ventures of China.

Broderick's LinkedIn profile now lists him as president and COO of Oomba. The company's CEO, Michael Williams, is currently based in San Francisco. But Broderick tells me that "a number of the Oomba folks" — including Williams — "are moving from other parts of the country to Cambridge, which is now Oomba's nexus."

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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