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Times Mirror to Invest in Game Company : Media: The publishing firm will put about $5 million into Rocket Science Games, a highly regarded start-up.


Times Mirror Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times, has agreed to take a minority stake in Rocket Science Games, a highly regarded Palo Alto-based start-up that aims to be a leader in next-generation video game software.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but sources said Times Mirror will invest about $5 million in Rocket Science, which has already attracted comparable equity investments from Sega of America and Bertelsmann Music Group.

The investment would be Times Mirror's first in the multimedia arena since its announcement in June that it would spin off its cable television operations to concentrate on creating new forms of programming for the digital age.

Because the cable deal would add more than $1 billion to the media firm's coffers, many industry analysts have been keeping a close watch on Times Mirror's investment strategy. The company previously acquired a stake in another video game maker, San Mateo Calif.-based Digital Pictures.

"What we want to do is invest in companies that will be good growth companies in and of themselves, but in addition we're interested in bringing their technology into Times Mirror and developing products of our own," said Ann Dilworth, Times Mirror vice president for new consumer media.

"We realize it's the early days in a company like Rocket Science, but we want to take advantage of their capability and imagination," she said. "We don't want to just rap out a CD-ROM that looks like everyone else's."

In addition to the equity stake, Times Mirror will launch a joint venture with Rocket Science to develop non-fiction "infotainment" CD-ROMs that are likely to incorporate material from the firm's vast publishing library. In addition to the Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror publishes Newsday, the Hartford Courant and other newspapers. It also has a consumer magazine division with titles such as Field & Stream, and specialty publishing subsidiaries in areas such as law and aviation.

Rocket Science's first games--an interplanetary trucking adventure called "Loadstar" and a comic book thriller called "Cadillacs and Dinosaurs"--are not due out until the fall. But the company promises its technology will eliminate one of the most irritating features of CD-ROMs: the time lag between when a user clicks a mouse or joystick and when the on-screen image reacts.

"I think we are setting some standards in quality of production and technology, and Times Mirror is a perfect partner for us," said Steve Blank, Rocket Science co-founder and president. "They've divested themselves of everything but content--it's like saying, 'We have no crutches.' I love companies like that."

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