Italian animation studio Rainbow invests $25M to create new free-to-play MMO

With over $116.3M in worldwide annual sales, Italian animation Giant Rainbow has recently invested $25M in the development of a free-to-play MMO based on its popular Winx Club franchise.

CEO Iginio Straffi said that the company plans on hiring approximately 100 Singaporean full time staff including animators, programmers and artists by 2011.  The project is also expected to generate over 200+ jobs for independent freelancers and merchandising experts.  This expansion will effectively increase the companies’ size by one-third, as Rainbow’s current staff is comprised of 185 full time staff based in two Italian animation studios and offices in Germany.

The Winx Club franchise currently has over two million register worldwide users, with animated cartoons airing around the world on cable television channels including the Cartoon Network.  The new MMO is expected to be based on a free-to-play model and monetizing via microtransaction updates, and presumably character customization.

While other locations where looked at for the expansion including, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands, Straffi commented that the available talent pool in Singapore was one of the main reasons why Rainbow decided to develop the game there.  If the MMO does well, Straffi and Co. plan on further investment and development of the fledgling studio including animation creation for television and silver screen.  Straffi also added that the superior internal telecommunications systems, strong intellectual property rights, and government support helped swing his decision.

Manohar Khiatani from the Singapore Economic Development Board comments, “It will provide an essential avenue for us to nurture talent and push Singapore into the limelight in the field of animation and gaming.”

This can be seen as a major win for Singapore, who’s aggressively been courting digital media developers since 2000.  In September of 2008, US based DigiPen Institute of Technology set up shop and accepted it’s first batch of 60 students that will be focusing on the creation of video games.  The National University of Singapore has also earmarked $11M to start an Interactive and Digital Media Institute.

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