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"Rift" maker Trion raises $85 million in new funding

By Liana B. Baker

(Reuters) - Video game publisher Trion Worlds has raised $85 million in a new round of funding as the privately held company aims to expand to Asia this year and launch new titles, CEO Lars Buttler told Reuters on Thursday.

Trion, which makes the Internet fantasy game "Rift," has now raised more than $185 million since it was founded five years ago. The company is eyeing the public markets, and could join the recent wave of gaming IPOs such as Nexon and Zynga, Buttler said in an interview.

Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, one of Canada's largest pension fund administrators with $110 billion in assets, led the round of funding, while the European media conglomerate, Bertelsmann, also participated. Previous investors in Trion are some of the best known media companies such as Comcast and Time Warner.

Buttler declined to say how much the company is valued at with these new investments.

"Rift" the company's first title, which came out last year, generated $100 million in revenue in 10 months in 2011. Lars said the game is profitable and makes money from players who buy the game, pay monthly subscription fees and purchase virtual items.

The game will be coming out in South Korea between April and June and China at a later date.

Buttler said the funding will serve as the company's "warchest" and it may be used for an acquisition or to licence a game.

Rift competes with "World of Warcraft," Activision Blizzard's massive multiplayer game with 10.3 million players but which has been in decline.

So-called massive multiplayer games allow thousands of people to play simultaneously over the Internet.

Trion, which is based in Silicon Valley, is also working on a new shooter game called "Defiance" that will be released to coincide with a television show of the same name on the Syfy Channel.

(Reporting By Liana B. Baker; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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