Weekly News Digest #36
# of announced deals
announced deals’ size
# of closed deals
China-based game giant NetEase (NASDAQ: NTES) has acquired France-based PC & Console games developer Quantic Dream for an undisclosed sum. NetEase, which became the minority shareholder of Quantic Dream in 2019, will now own 100% of the studio.
Quantic Dream was founded back in 1997 by French game designer David Cage, who has been acting as the studio’s main visionary. He has written and directed all the four titles Quantic Dream is primarily known for: Fahrenheit (2005), Heavy Rain (2010), Beyond: Two Souls (2013), and Detroit: Become Human (2018). All of the games have a distinguished game design, built around strong narrative, interactive storytelling, and cinematic approach. Currently, the studio is working together with Lucasfilm Games on the action-adventure title Star Wars Eclipse.
The acquisition will supply Quantic Dream with funding and market expertise to go beyond game development and grow its international publishing division, which opened in 2019. The company has already announced it’s going to be a publisher for Jo-Mei Games (Sea of Solitude: The Director’s Cut), Red Thread Games (Dustborn), and Parallel Studios (unannounced title). Moreover, the proceeds from the deal will allow Quantic Dream to expand its staff and start parallel development.
As for NetEase, the deal is also about expansion: both to the Western markets, and to the PC & Console premium games market. Quantic Dream is not only the first European company owned by NetEase, but is also a console-first developer — the studio’s titles came to PC only in 2020. Since consoles have been banned in China for around 14 years (until 2014), NetEase has been historically active in PC and Mobile segments. According to market reports, in 2021 China had 706 million PC and mobile gamers, and only 15.9 million console gamers. Thus,it is clearly a challenge for gaming companies to bring Chinese gamers to consoles, but it is also an opportunity since Nintendo, Sony, and Xbox consoles are already present in the market, including the next-gen versions. Tencent, the closest competitor of NetEase, is also pursuing the PC & Console premium games market, and is reported to be working on a AAA Console title for Western audiences. In this context, the acquisition of an experienced and a well-known console games developer with serious ambitions of growing to an international publisher is a logical step for NetEase.
Of course, we shouldn’t forget about the strong IP portfolio Quantic Dream has. In one of our latest bits for Naavik we covered how Embracer values the franchises, while our previous digest was focused on the transmedia and IP-centric approach of tinyBuild. In times like these, no one should underestimate the value of a powerful franchise.
Sony (TYO: 6758; NYSE: SONY), via its subsidiary Sony Interactive Entertainment, and Tencent (SEHK: 700), through its subsidiary Sixjoy, have increased their stakes in Japanese PC & Console games developer FromSoftware. Currently, the companies own 30.34% of FromSoftware: 16.25% for Tencent, and 14.09% for Sony.
Both companies have already had their minority stakes in FromSoftware. Tencent acquired 6.86% of the company with its $264m investment back in Oct’21, while Sony acquired 1.93% stake in Feb’21. The controlling stake is still being held by FromSoftware parent company Kadokawa Corporation, which owns 69.66% of the company.
FromSoftware is best known for its hardcore action RPG: Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls series, Bloodborne, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and Elden Ring. The games presented a new gameplay formula, which defined the souls-like subgenre. Founded in 1986, the company had been focused solely on Console games development (mostly for PlayStation), until coming to PC with Ninja Blade in 2009. Now, the studio is developing its games for PC, PlayStation, and Xbox.
In its notice, FromSoftware highlighted that the deal will allow the company to get Tencent’s expertise in mobile games deploying, and Sony’s experience in franchise development through games and trans-media initiatives. The funds will allow FromSoftware to increase its development capabilities, invest in IP development and support the global market expansion.
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
Japan-based tech giant Sony acquires Finland-based mobile game developer Savage Game Studios via its subsidiary Sony Interactive Entertainment. Financial terms of the deal are not disclosed. The studio will join a newly-established mobile gaming division and will focus on making titles using new and existing PlayStation IPs.
Denmark-based PC & Mobile games publisher and developer Trophy Games acquires 80% shares of Lithuania-based games developer PIU-PIU. The purchase price is ~$300k and will be paid fully in cash. PIU-PIU developed SkyHaven — airport tycoon simulator which is now at early access on Steam. The deal aims to increase the portfolio of the Trophy Games and add more expertise to the current team.
US-based UGC gaming platform Roblox (NYSE: RBLX) has acquired Canada-based virtual reality startup TriplePlay. The financial terms of the deal are not disclosed. TriplePlay has expertise in virtual gamified events for different customers, and that expertise will be used to further develop Roblox’s platform.
Turkey-based PC & Console games developer TaleWorlds has acquired shares of Turkey-based mobile games developer Udo Games from WePlay Ventures and Lima Ventures. The financial terms of the deal are not disclosed. Last year the studio raised $420k from both funds, and this is an untypically early exit for a VC. The deal will strengthen TaleWorlds expertise in the mobile segment and will increase its games pipeline.
Hong Kong-based blockchain giant Animoca Brands will receive $100m in funding from Singapore-based investment fund Temasek. The investment is expected to be done via convertible bonds. Temasek’s investment demonstrates that funds still believe in the future of Animoca Brands even after the cryptocurrency market drop.
Switzerland-based Web3 games publisher and developer Xterio has raised $40m in funding. The round was co-led by FunPlus, Makers Fund, FTX Ventures, and XPLA with participation from HashKey, and others. The funds will be used for developing and publishing its own games, as well as partners’ games, and creating new IPs for further development of the Xterio cross-platform for game developers.
Canada-based Web3 game developer Bravo Ready announced that Shima Capital has joined its investors as a part of a $3.5m seed round. The funds will be used to accelerate the development of BR1: Infinite Royale and other titles of the company.
US-based video streaming startup Stacked has raised $12.9m in Series A funding. The round was led by Pantera Capital, with participation from Z Venture Capital, and others. The startup aims to create a live streaming platform with watch-to-earn crypto-economics. The funds will be used to reconfigure the steaming platform with blockchain and NFT features, and launch it in December in North America.
Finland-based mobile games publisher and developer Nitro Games (STO: NITRO) will receive a $1.98m convertible loan from Denmark-based gaming company Nordisk Games. As a part of the 24-month and 0 percent interest rate loan, Nordisk Games has the option to use it to subscribe for shares against the unpaid amount, until the entire loan has been repaid. The funds will go towards the development of new titles in the shooter genre.
US-based newly-established game studio Sprocket Games has raised $5m in Seed funding. The round was led by BITKRAFT Ventures, with participation from 1Up Ventures, and others. The funds will be used for hiring core staff members of the development team. The studio is working on an unannounced cross-platform social adventure title.