Firm now plans to bolster move into facial animation middleware, targets new genres

GDC: $8m deal takes Image Metrics public

Facial Animation firm Image Metrics has completed an $8m deal which effectively turns it into a publicly-listed company.

A stock exchange offer with already-public International Cellular Accessories (ICLA) made the transformation – ICLA will now change its name and stock symbol to Image Metrics, Inc.

The deal, worth $8m, gives Image Metrics a cash boost so it can focus on sales and marketing for its core software and service business, grow the launch of its new facial animation middleware Faceware and grow it into new areas such as virtual worlds, gaming and social networks.

Image Metrics is best known for supplying high-end facial capture materials in a raft of Rockstar titles, including GTA IV, and many other triple-A games.

The firm was founded in 2000 and in the games space has worked with Activision-Blizzard, Bethesda, Electronic Arts, Sega, Sony Computer Entertainment, Take Two Interactive, Ubisoft, and Warner Brothers.

It’s also worked in feature films including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which won a 2008 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

Michael Starkenburg, Image Metrics’ Chief Executive Officer, commented: “Our proven animation technology allows video game studios to significantly improve the time to market for their games while simultaneously reducing development costs. The Image Metrics process enables artists to create believable facial animation that captures the subtleties of human facial movement in a fraction of the time needed for traditional methods. Gamers are seeking increasingly realistic and immersive experiences and believable facial performances.

"We are now staffing up sales and marketing to take advantage of a growing base of client testimonials, awards, press and word of mouth to grow both the size of the facial animation market and our market share.

“In addition, we are working to package our technology into a software service offering that we can deploy to customers. This will create a hybrid software/service business model which should expand our market opportunity and favorably impact profit margins and our future financial performance.”

As part of its publicly traded status, the firm has detailed some of its accounting – the firm reported revenue of $4.0 million in its fiscal year-ended September 30, 2009 and entered fiscal 2010 with a backlog of firm contracts of over $5 million. Revenue grew to $2.5 million in the first quarter ended December 31, 2009, and the Company has already recorded revenue of over $800,000 in January 2010, the first month of its fiscal 2010 second quarter.

Image Metrics said it expects improved gross profit margins on a relatively fixed overhead, though "planned increases in sales & marketing, product development and some G&A expense could have an offsetting impact on profitability". The firm reported a net loss of $6.8 million for fiscal 2009, its net loss for Q1 ’10 improved to $1 million.

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