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GGP Gaming Weekly – Week 09

Highlights

Playtika reports FQ4 2020 earnings (link)

  • FQ4 2020 Results
    • Reported revenue of $574M, representing 17% YoY growth and versus consensus of $555M
    • Reported Adj. EBITDA of $210M (37% margin), representing a 24% YoY growth and versus consensus of $190M
    • Reported net income of $76M (13% margin), representing a 153% YoY growth due primarily to the flow-through impact of increased revenues
    • After giving effect to the proceeds raised in the IPO in January 2021, available liquidity, defined as “Cash and Cash Equivalents” as of December 31, 2020, plus the Company’s undrawn revolving credit facility, is over $1B
  • FY 2020 Results
    • Reported revenue of $2,372M, representing a 26% YoY growth and versus consensus of $2,353M
    • Reported Adj. EBITDA of $942M (40% margin), representing a 32% YoY growth and versus consensus of $891M
    • Reported net income of $92M (4% margin), representing a 68% YoY decrease
  • Company-Reported Highlights
    • Casual portfolio exceeded $1B in revenue for the first time
    • Bingo Blitz hit its 10-year anniversary with record revenue of $443M, up 38% YoY
    • Solitaire Grand Harvest achieved record revenue of $147M, up 95% YoY
    • June’s Journey achieved record revenue of $168M, up 90% YoY
  • FY 2021 Guidance
    • Revenue: $2,440M (versus consensus of $2,420M)
    • Adj. EBITDA: $920M (versus consensus of $884M)

Enad Global 7 reports FQ4 2020 earnings (link)

  • Financial Highlights
    • Reported net revenue of $23M, representing a 245% increase YoY
    • Reported Adj. EBITDA of $1M
    • The Company’s cash balance at the end of the period amounted to $129M
    • Reported earnings per share of -$0.14
  • Significant Events
    • EG7 completed the acquisition of Big Blue Bubble
    • EG7 entered into an agreement to acquire Canada-based game developer Piranha Games, known for MechWarrior, for ~$25M
    • EG7 completed its acquisition of US- based game developer Daybreak Game Company, known for EverQuest, Lord of the Rings, and Dungeons & Dragons, for ~$300M
    • EG7 raised ~$200M by issuing 20,731,707 shares in a new offering

Roblox plans to list shares on March 10, reports 82% revenue growth to $923M for 2020 (link)

  • Roblox, the platform for user-generated games, will go public through a direct listing of its shares on March 10th
  • The Company reported that it lost $253M on revenues of $924M (82% increase YoY) for the year ended December 31st
  • Roblox DAUs rose to 32.6M in 2020 from 17.6M in 2019 and the Roblox Platform has a community of 8M active developers
  • Roblox had originally planned for an initial public offering last fall, but it postponed that plan and raised $520M at a valuation of $29.5B

Jerry Bruckheimer joins Skillz board of directors (link)

  • Competitive mobile games platform Skillz has added producer Jerry Bruckheimer to its board of directors
  • “Skillz puts the excitement and competitive drama of esports into the hands of billions of people around the world” said Bruckheimer
  • Bruckheimer previously sat on the board of privately held ZeniMax Media, Bethesda's parent company

M&A and Capital Raising

Hiro Capital Leads $15M Investments in Snowprint, Double Loop, and Happy Volcano (link)

  • London-based Hiro Capital focuses on investing in games, esports, digital fitness, and the metaverse
  • The three mobile and cross-platform studios will use Hiro’s investment to expand their development pipelines and accelerate global growth
  • Snowprint Studios was founded in 2015 in Sweden and operates their debut mobile title Legend of Solgard and is now also working on an unannounced title and Rivengard, a turn-based tactics game that launched globally on January 21
  • Double Loop Games is a San Francisco-based studio preparing to launch its social mobile title, made for players who don’t think of themselves as gamers
  • Happy Volcano Games is a Belgium-based studio that launched the critically acclaimed narrative exploration game, The Almost Gone, and are currently working on a new soon-to-launch cross-platform game, You Suck at Parking

Beamable raises $5M for Unity-based live game services platform (link)

  • Beamable has raised $5M in funding to fuel its new business of providing a live services platform for game developers
  • The round was led by Companyon Ventures and GrandBanks Capital with additional participation from Defy.vc, Oyster Funds, and others
  • Beamable equips developers with the technology to help them continuously operate, update, monetize and socialize their games
  • Over 20M users have accessed games built on Beamable, resulting in $150M in revenue transacted over the platform

Bebopbee raises $2M to create match-3 casual puzzle games (link)

  • BebopBee, a Silicon Valley game studio focused on match-3 puzzle games, has raised $2M in funding from Bitkraft Ventures, 1Up Ventures, IGG, and angel investors
  • BebobBee will use the capital to build live operations and a marketing program to acquire more players
  • The studio wants to pioneer the next-generation of free-to-play match-3 puzzlers on mobile

IronSource acquires creative management platform Luna Labs (link)

  • Mobile monetization firm IronSource has acquired Luna Labs, the maker of a creative management platform used to create mobile ads
  • Luna Labs’ technology allows app developers to create, manage and optimize their playable ad and video ads, at a fast speed and on a large scale
  • Luna Labs’ SaaS platform enables developers to create ads directly from their game code and then automatically generate unlimited variations of the ads

Netmarble acquires a majority stake in Kung Fu Factory (link)

  • Mobile games developer Netmarble is set to acquire a majority stake in WWE: Champions developer Kung Fu Factory
  • Through the deal, the indie developer will become a subsidiary of Netmarble US
  • Currently, the two companies are working together with the NBA and NBPA on creating NBA Ball Stars

Miniclip makes strategic investment in Green Horse Games (link)

  • Through the investment, Miniclip has become the majority stakeholder of the Romanian studio Green Horse Games
  • Green Horse Games is known for its title Football Rivals

Others

Sony announces new PSVR for PlayStation 5 (link)

  • Sony announced that PlayStation 5 is getting its own virtual reality system, a successor to PSVR for PlayStation 4
  • The Company announced that it will connect to the PS5 with a single cord and will feature improved resolution, tracking, and field of view
  • PSVR for PlayStation 4 launched in 2016 and sold over 5M headsets

Esports firm VSPN considering an IPO (link)

  • Versus Programming Network (VSPN) is considering going public in an IPO expected to raise sever hundred million dollars
  • Shanghai-based VSPN was founded in 2016 and has offices in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, South Korea and the US
  • The company is known for mobile esports tournaments across a range of games, including Honor of Kings, Peacekeeper Elite – known as PUBG Mobile in the West – and Clash Royale
  • In October 2020, the esports Company raised $100M in a Series B funding round led by Tencent

Gaming Public Multiples

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GGP Gaming Weekly – Week 08

Highlights

Embracer Published FQ3 Interim Report (October-December 2020) (link)

  • The Company’s stock did not react materially following earnings, though has traded up nearly 30% YTD, and 18% in FQ3 2020
  • Reported a 44% YoY increase in Net Sales to $262M, versus consensus of $251M
    • Net Sales includes the following reported games segments: Deep Silver (37%), THQ Nordic (28%), Saber Interactive (23%), Coffee Stain (7%), and DECA Games (5%)
  • EBITDA increased by 70% YoY to $106M, versus consensus of $96M
  • The Company reported Adj. EPS of $0.13, versus consensus of $0.14
  • Year-over-year, total game development projects increased 56% to 150, and total headcount increased 93% to 5,730 (including 4,325 total game developers)
  • Following the reported quarter, Embracer announced acquisitions of Gearbox Entertainment, Easybrain Limited, and Aspyr Media for a total day-one purchase price of $1.1B

Stillfront Reports 2020 Year-End Results (link)

  • Stillfront reported strong growth, though the Company traded down ~5% after earnings-release, falling short of revenue consensus figures
    • Reported net revenue of $130M for FQ4 2020, representing an increase of 96% YoY and versus consensus of $144M
    • Reported Adj. EBITDA of $55M for FQ4 2020, representing a 42% margin and a 121% increase YoY
  • Highlights
    • Reported 22M MAUs and 4M DAUs as of December 31st
    • Currently consists of 19 studios, including Candywriter, Moonfrog, Nanobit, Sandbox, Storm8, SuperFreeGames, and more
    • Portfolio consists of 42 games, with 20+ upcoming titles in pipeline for soft-launch in 2021, including Pet Clinic, Game of Nations, and Albion Online Mobile
    • Currently, Stillfront’s portfolio consists of 77% mobile

Netmarble Reports FQ4 2020 Results (link)

  • Netmarble reported modest growth, and the Company traded down ~2% since earnings-release after falling short of Q4 2020 and FY consensus figures
    • Reported net revenue of $560M for Q4 2020, representing an increase of 12.4% YoY and versus consensus of $612M
    • Reported net revenue of $2.24B for FY 2020, representing an increase of 14% YoY and versus consensus of $2.28B
    • Operating profit of $250M, representing a margin of 11%, 34% YoY growth, and versus consensus of $247M
    • International revenue (outside of Korea) accounted for 72% of total revenue
    • Genre portfolio showed diversification across RPG (33%), MMORPG (31%), Casual (24%), and others (12%)
  • Pipeline
    • Netmarble will launch numerous new titles in 2021, including Blade & Soul Revolution and NBA Ball Stars in Q1, Ni no Kuni in Q2, and Seven Knights Revolution and Marvel Future Revolution in 2H 2021
U.S. gamers spent $4.5B on PC hardware and accessories in 2020, according to The NPD Group (link)
  • Hardware and accessories for the PC gaming space reached $4.5B in the United States last year, which is up 62% compared to 2019 and more than twice the sales in the same period in 2017
  • NPD also noted that PC gaming content increased 19% to $7.5B
Zynga set to enter console market with Star Wars: Hunters (link)
  • Zynga announced its first console title developed by Zynga subsidiary NaturalMotion Games in collaboration with LucasFilm Games
  • Star Wars: Hunters is a free-to-play online shooter that is set to release on Nintendo Switch and mobile devices later this year
Twitch and Facebook Gaming break viewership records (link)
  • Twitch experienced its best viewership month to date in January 2021 with more than 2B hours of viewership, and Facebook Gaming had 439M hours of viewership
  • Combined, the two platforms experienced a 117% YoY increase in viewership

M&A and Capital Raising

Artie raises $10M as it pivots to make instant games (link)
  • Artie has raised $10M to make instant Mobile games that can be played directly inside social media, video, and messaging platforms in a way that bypasses the app stores 30% tax
  • Artie’s technology enables Mobile games to be played directly inside media platforms without any additional app downloads, applications programming interface (API) access, or integration needed, said CEO Ryan Horrigan in an interview with GamesBeat
  • The Company is focused on making Mobile games easier to discover and play for consumers while improving the economics of mobile games for developers and creators

Colossi Games secures $2.5M in seed funding (link)

  • Cyprus-based mobile games developer Colossi Games has raised $2.5M in a seed round led by EQT Ventures with additional participation from Play Ventures
  • Colossi Games will use the funding to create a new Mobile social survival title set in the Roman Empire
  • The game will feature multiplayer gameplay with users able to band together, and face off against opponents in the Colosseum
Lucid Sight acquires Colyseus open-source multiplayer game engine (link)
  • Lucid Sight, a maker of blockchain games, has acquired the open-source multiplayer engine Colyseus for an undisclosed price
  • Colyseus projects have seen millions of monthly active users and have processed billions of monthly requests
  • The Los Angeles-based Lucid Sight makes blockchain games such as MLB Champions and CSC featuring Star Trek, and now it will be taking over the Colyseus brand, GitHub, and all social and support channels

Others

Amazon’s New World delayed to August 31 (link)
  • Amazon announced that its online role-playing game New World is going to miss its spring release window, instead setting an August 31 release date
  • Last year, Amazon Game Studios released Crucible, its first major title, but the multiplayer shooter only lasted a few months before dissolving
  • The extra time will let Amazon add “substantial improvements while polishing and fine tuning the whole game.” It starts a closed beta July 20, which is available to anyone who preorders
Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville hits Switch on March 19 (link)
  • Developer PopCap Vancouver is launching the competitive shooter on the hybrid home/handheld console as a “Complete Edition” on March 19
  • EA and PopCap worked with the port specialists at QLOC. This is the first Frostbite Engine game to come to Switch
  • This is one of seven games that EA promised to release for Switch over the 12-month period starting in June. Others include Apex Legends launching March 9, Velan Studios’ new game, and EA Partners’ game Lost In Random
Velan Studios will launch Knockout City dodgeball game on May 21 (link)
  • Velan Studios and Electronic Arts will launch the team dodgeball game Knockout City on PC and consoles on May 21
  • Prior to that date, the companies will launch a closed beta on Origin and Steam on February 20-21
  • Under the EA Originals label, this free-to-play game will debut on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, the PC via Origin and Steam
  • The 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 multiplayer game will be available on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S through backward compatibility with graphical and performance enhancements
Destiny developer Bungie is expanding as it preps for new games and more (link)
  • The Company revealed that it has added new members to its board of directors, including media executives Trace Harris and ViacomCBS consumer products president Pamela Kaufman
  • The addition of Harris and Kaufman is notable because Bungie is planning to push into other entertainment mediums. Harris spent 13 years at global multimedia conglomerate Vivendi. Kaufman, meanwhile, works on licensing and merchandising for Nickelodeon, MTV, and CBS properties
  • The Company is also growing its offices and bringing in new production talent. This expansion is in preparation for the continued operation of Destiny as well as the release of a new Bungie product by 2025
Rovio confirms April launch for upcoming fantasy RPG Darkfire Heroes (link)
  • Rovio confirmed that its upcoming title Darkfire Heroes will launch globally across Google Play and the App Store in April 2021
  • Darkfire Heroes is a mid-core RPG strategy game with a single-layer campaign, as well as PVP arenas for players to team up and battle with friends
  • Rovio acquired Danish mobile games developer Darkfire Games in 2020, and Darkfire Heroes will be the studio’s debut release
The N3twork Scale Platform partners with Emerald City Games (link)
  • The N3twork Scale Platform is set to publish its 10th game after it formed a partnership with Emerald City Games
  • The Canada-based studio, and its title Lionheart: Dark Moon, joins the likes of 99 Games, MeeWow Games and Two Hand Games, who have also joined the N3twork Scale Platform
  • Lionheart: Dark Moon had D1 retention of 44% and strong monetization in its initial NSP test period

Gaming Public Multiples

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GGP Gaming Weekly – Week 07

Highlights

Take-Two Reports FQ3 2021 Earnings (link)
  • TTWO reported FQ3 2021 Net Bookings that exceeded expectations, primarily driven by growth in its core franchises
    • Reported FQ3 2021 net bookings of $814M representing a 8% decrease YoY, but significantly exceeding prior outlook ($675M - $725M) and consensus ($757M)
    • Reported FQ3 2021 digitally-delivered net bookings of $664M, representing a 4% decrease YoY
    • Reported FQ3 2021 diluted EPS of $1.57 vs. $1.43 in FQ3 2020, representing a 10% increase YoY
  • Franchise highlights
    • Grand Theft Auto V has sold more than 140M units to date, and more units were sold in CY 2020 than in any other year except for 2013 when it was first launched
    • Grand Theft Auto Online outperformed internal forecasts and grew 28% YoY and is expected to achieve a new net bookings record in FY 2021
    • Red Dead Redemption 2 has sold over 36M units worldwide to date
    • Red Dead Online had more new players in December than any other month since its beta launch in 2018, and the game had more overall players in 2020 than in 2019
    • NBA 2K 2021 has sold 8M units across all platforms with net bookings for the NBA 2K franchise growing 48% YoY
    • Playdots title Two Dots introduced its biggest feature update of the year, including competitive leaderboards, which helped the game increase ARPDAU 12% QoQ, and the game now has its highest payer conversion rates ever
  • Development Pipeline
    • Take-Two reiterated its target of 93 new game releases in the next 5 years
      • 63 of the 93 are core gaming experiences, 17 are mid-core/arcade style experiences, and 13 are casual experiences
      • About half of them will come from existing IP and half will come from new IP
      • 72 of the 93 are planned for PC/Console/Streaming including 7 that will also be available on Mobile, and 21 that are Mobile-only
      • 67 of the 93 will need to be purchased, and 26 will be free-to-play
Ubisoft Reports FQ3 2021 Earnings (link)
  • Reported FQ3 net bookings of $1,212M representing a 142% increase YoY, and exceeding prior revenue outlook of $1,003M – $1,119M
    • FQ3 YTD digital net bookings increased 39.9% YoY to $1,506M, comprising 71% of total net bookings
    • FQ3 YTD back-catalog net bookings increased 33.3% YoY to $1,233M, comprising 58% of total net bookings (overlap exists between digital and back-catalog)
  • FQ3 Highlights
    • Ubisoft ranked as the second-highest publisher for new-generation consoles, including PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion, and Immortals Fenyx Rising all in the top 7 best sellers
    • Ubisoft ranked as the top third-party publisher (CY2020, according to NPD for NCSA and GSD/Gfk for EMEA) in 2020 on Switch, with Just Dance 2020, the 8th best seller
    • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla achieved record revenues for the franchise
    • Just Dance 2021 net bookings rose sharply compared to Just Dance 2020
  • Strong Momentum in Back-Catalog
    • Ubisoft saw record growth for Brawlhalla, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Far Cry 5, The Crew 2, and Anno 1800
    • Just Dance back-catalog experienced a 200%+ surge
    • Steep rise in engagement for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Origins
    • 70M players registered since launch of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
  • Breakdown of FQ3 net bookings
    • North America (48%), Europe (39%), RoW (13%)
    • PS4/PS5 (37%), Xbox One/Series X/S (23%), PC (21%), Switch (13%), Mobile (5%), Other (1%)
  • Game Delays and Developments
    • Ubisoft plans on releasing multiple games in FQ4 across PC, Console, Android, and iOS, including Anno 1800: Docklands, Immortals Fenyx Rising: Myths of the Eastern Realm, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege: Year 6, Watch Dogs: Legion – Update 1, and more
    • Ubisoft’s Price of Persia remake has been postponed indefinitely
    • Ubisoft announced a collaboration with Lucasfilm Games on a new Star Wars game
Zynga Reports FQ4 2020 Earnings (link)
  • Reported strong FQ4 results, with record levels of engagement, highest ever quarterly revenue and bookings, as well as record DAUs and MAUs
    • Reported FQ4 2020 bookings of $699M, representing a 61.4% increase YoY, and exceeding prior revenue outlook of $670M
    • Reported FQ4 2020 international revenue of $236M, representing a 50% increase YoY, and international bookings of $280M, representing a 57% increase YoY
    • Reported FQ4 2020 operating cash flow of $206M vs. consensus of $128M, representing a 119% increase YoY
    • Reported all-time best advertising revenue of $117M, representing a 47% increase YoY
  • FQ4 Performance
    • Highest revenue and bookings performance in Zynga’s history, with record online game – or user pay – bookings of $582M, representing a 64% increase YoY
    • FQ4 represented the all-time best revenue and bookings quarter for Words With Friends, Empires & Puzzles, and CSR2, as well as Zynga’s Social Slots and Casual Cards portfolios
    • Record average mDAUs of 36M and mMAUs of 134M, representing a 77% and 103% YoY increase respectively
    • Bookings mix included: Forever Franchises (70%), Social Slots & Casual Cards (15%), and Other (15%). FY 2020 figures are comprised of a similar mix
  • FY 2020 Performance
    • Highest revenue and bookings performance in Zynga’s history, with record online game – or user pay – bookings of $1.96B, representing a 52% increase YoY
    • Record advertising revenue of $307M, representing an increase of 12% YoY
    • Executed two transformational acquisitions – Peak and Rollic – adding scale to the platform and expanding Zynga’s international audience base
    • Peak contributed two at-scale “Forever Franchises”, Toon Blast and Toy Blast, and Rollic added three of the top 50 downloaded US iPhone games in 2020
  • Capital Position
    • Issued $875M of convertible notes in FQ4, providing net cash proceeds of $794M after the cost of the capped call transactions and other issuance fees
    • Ended FY 2020 with cash and investments of ~$1.57B, putting the Company in a strong financial position in which to pursue additional M&A
  • Additional Key Performance Indicators
    • Daily Engagement, calculated as DAUs/MAUs, was 27% in FQ4 2020, down from 30% in FQ4 2019
    • Average Bookings per mDAU (ABPU), was $0.205 in FQ4 2020, representing an 8% decrease YoY
Game accessory sales set new January record at $222M (link)
  • According to The NPD Group, spending on video game accessories reached a January record of $222M a 73% increase YoY
  • The gamepad, headset/headphone, and steering wheel categories all set new January dollar-sales records
January 2021 NPD: Nintendo games and holiday hits lead surging sales (link)
  • According to The NPD Group, video game hardware sales grew 144% YoY and video game content sales grew 36% YoY
  • January’s top selling games were Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  • We're Five Games is developing an updated version of Totally Reliable Delivery Service, alongside a new game in the series that will be released in 2021
  • Hungry Couch will continue the development of upcoming RPG Black Skylands
  • Moon Moose will continue development of Cartel Tycoon, a management simulation game scheduled for release in 2021

M&A and Capital Raising

Electronic Arts to Acquire Glu Mobile (link)
  • Transaction Overview
    • EA will acquire Glu for an equity value of $2.4B, and a total enterprise value of $2.1B including Glu’s net cash of $364M (representing 3.5x 2021 revenue and 20.3x 2021 EBITDA); EA traded +1% in after-hours trading as a result of the announcement, Glu traded +34%
    • Glu stockholders will receive $12.50 in cash for each share of Glu stock, representing a 36% premium to Glu’s closing share price on February 5, 2021 (34% premium to Glu’s closing share price on February 8, 2021)
    • The board of directors of EA and Glu have approved the transaction and the Glu board recommends that Glu stockholders approve the transaction and adopt the merger agreement
    • The transaction is anticipated to close in the quarter ending June 30, 2021, subject to approval by the Glu stockholders, the receipt of required regulatory approvals, and other customary closing conditions
  • Transaction Rationale
    • The acquisition will be immediately accretive to EA’s total net bookings, and is expected to grow underlying profitability beginning in its first year
    • Glu will add scale to EA’s mobile games business – a combination of the two businesses generated a combined $1.32B in bookings over the last twelve months
    • The combined organization will build on EA’s network of 430M players, including more than 100M monthly active players in mobile
    • The combined organization will span many genres of mobile games, including sports, RPG, lifestyle, casual, and mid-core games
    • Glu’s franchises like Design Home, Covet Fashion, and MLB Tap Sports Baseball will benefit from Electronic Arts’ global licensing and distribution capabilities to bring them to new markets and more players
Homa Games raises $15M to make hypercasual mobile games (link)
  • Paris-based mobile publisher and developer Homa Games has raised $15M in a seed round from Idinvest, E.ventures, and angel investors
  • Since its founding, Homa Games has focused on hypercasual launching hits including Tower Color, Sky Roller, and Nerf: Epic Pranks
  • Homa Games quadrupled its team in the past year, expanding its reach to offices in Toulouse, Lisbon, and Skopje
Candivore raises $12M for match-three title Match Masters (link)
  • Israel-based Candivore has raised $12M in funding for its match-three title Match Masters, led by VGames
  • The proceeds from the raise will be used for user acquisition for Match Masters, which has attracted over 1M MAUs with more than 5M matches played each day
My.Games invests $1.5M in Pizza Club Games mobile studio (link)
  • My.Games has invested $1.5M in San Francisco-based mobile game studio Pizza Club Games
  • As part of the deal, My.Games Venture Capital is providing both money and support for scaling the business, including marketing, game design, employee recruitment, and product analytics
  • Pizza Club Games developed Raid Boss, a free-to-play mobile character collector that offers players the opportunity to take charge of their own guild and battle bosses
  • Raid Boss is currently available on Android, with the company planning to release an iOS version and add new game mechanics
Asmodee acquires Board Game Arena, a platform for playing tabletop games online (link)
  • Board Game Arena has been around since 2010 and experienced 600% growth in 2020
  • The Company has official virtual tabletop versions of 250 games, supports 40 languages, and has more than 5M users signed up
  • Board Game Arena will operate independently and remain focused on virtual tabletop development, not PC adaptations of Asmodee games
TinyBuild acquires three new studios (link)
  • TinyBuild has acquired three new studios; We're Five Games, Hungry Couch, and Moon Moose

Others

Tilting Point will invest up to $60M in user acquisition for Loop Games’ Match 3D game (link)
  • Tilting Point will spend as much as $60M on user acquisition for Match 3D, a promising puzzle game from Turkish developer Loop Games
  • Tilting Point is a free-to-play game publisher and provider of user acquisition services, that works with smaller developers, taking their hit games and making them more successful by spending money on advertising for the games

Gaming Public Multiples

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GGP Gaming Weekly – Week 06

Highlights

PLAYSTUDIOS to become the first publicly listed Mobile games company offering players real-world rewards through its merger with Acies Acquisition Corp. (link)

LionTree served as advisor to PLAYSTUDIOS and PIPE placement agent on the transaction
  • PLAYSTUDIOS has developed a portfolio of top-ranked games that have attracted a loyal following due, in part, to the Company’s playAWARDS Loyalty Program
  • The program lets players earn real-world rewards from a curated collection of over 80 partners and 275 entertainment, retail, travel, leisure, and gaming brands
  • To date, the PLAYSTUDIOS community has used its in-app loyalty points to redeem over 10M rewards with a retail value of nearly $500M
  • The transaction implies an enterprise value for PLAYSTUDIOS of $1.1B, or 2.5x projected 2022 revenue of $435M or 12.3x projected 2022 pro forma Adjusted EBITDA of $90M
  • Consideration to PLAYSTUDIOS will comprise at least 89.1M shares of ACAC common stock and up to $150M in cash
  • In addition, funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, ClearBridge Investments, Neuberger Berman Funds, and MGM Resorts International are leading participants in the $250M PIPE, at a price of $10.00 per share of common stock of Acies immediately prior to the closing of the transaction
Embracer acquires Aspyr Media, Easybrain, and Gearbox Entertainment (link 1) (link 2) (link 3)
  • Embracer Group is the parent company of game businesses with a catalog of over 200 owned franchises, such as Saints Row, Goat Simulator, Dead Island, Darksiders, Metro, MX vs ATV, Kingdoms of Amalur, TimeSplitters, Satisfactory, Wreckfest, Insurgency, and World War Z
  • Aspyr Media
    • Aspyr offers system level engineering, platform and store optimization, quality assurance and production, multiplatform publishing, and support, assisting game developers to connect and market their games to targeted audiences. The Company is based in Austin, Texas
    • Most recently, the Company expanded its presence on new platforms, publishing titles such as the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 port of Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
    • During 2020, Aspyr generated approximately $40.6M in revenues and $11.4M in EBIT
    • Enterprise Value (up-front): $100M (2.5x EV/Sales, 8.8x EV/EBIT)
  • Easybrain
    • The Company offers infrastructure, procedures, and tools needed to build Mobile games & applications, and offers predictive analytics, modeling tools, and product and marketing intelligence, enabling developers to build robust applications and games. The Company is based in Minsk, Belarus
    • Easybrain’s senior management: Peter Skoromnyi, Matvey Timoshenko, and Oleg Grushevich will jointly become the third-largest shareholder in Embracer
    • Easybrain will become Embracer’s eighth operative group as a wholly-owned subsidiary
    • Easybrain’s revenues in 2020 are expected to be $210M, while its EBIT will be $70M
    • Enterprise Value (up-front): $640M (3.0x EV/Sales, 9.1x EV/EBIT)
  • Gearbox Entertainment
    • The Company develops video games for PC, console, and other platforms, and is based in Frisco, Texas
    • The transaction gives Gearbox access to new capital to help it make more games and become a significant part of the Embracer Group, which has 5,500 employees around the world
    • Over the years, Gearbox has worked on the Borderlands and Brothers in Arms franchises, and helped with the development of Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, 007 James Bond, and Halo
    • Enterprise Value (up-front): $363M (2.2x EV/Sales, 5.5x EV/EBIT)
AppLovin to Acquire Berlin’s Adjust in $1B Deal (link)
  • Mobile apps company AppLovin is acquiring Adjust, a Berlin-based startup that makes tools to measure the performance of apps allowing mobile app developers to track and analyze performance of marketing campaigns. Its users include Yelp Inc. and Foodpanda GmbH
  • The deal values Adjust at close to $1B, according to a person familiar with the matter
  • AppLovin is a game publisher as well as marketplace for other mobile apps. Backed by private equity firm KKR & Co., AppLovin has diversified from gaming through acquisitions
Candivore raises $12M to boost Match Masters puzzle game (link)
  • Candivore has raised $12M to fund growth for the Company’s games such as Match Masters, a mobile match-3 puzzler
  • The title has more than a million monthly active users who play more than five million daily matches
  • The Tel Aviv, Israel-based studio has 25 people, and the funding team came from Funtomic, which operated the Kizi flash game portal, started in 2009
Nerd Street Gamers raises $11.5M for digital esports platform (link)
  • Nerd Street Gamers has raised $11.5M to expand its digital esports platform
  • The investment comes from San Francisco venture capital firm Founders Fund
  • Previously, Nerd Street Gamers raised nearly $12M from Philadelphia discount retailer Five Below (and others) to build esports Localhost facilities that house leagues, training camps, tournaments, and showcases
Anzu.io raises $9M for in-game ad platform (link)
  • Anzu.io has raised $9M in new funding for its platform for a new generation of in-game advertising
  • The Tel Aviv-based Anzu.io claims it can make its platform more intelligent by seamlessly integrating digital ads directly into gameplay, without disrupting the user experience
  • Clients include game publishers Ubisoft, Lion Castle, and Nacon. Brands using it include Pepsico, Samsung, American Eagle, and Vodafone
Oculus cofounder’s Mountaintop raises $5.5M for shooter game (link)
  • Headed by Oculus cofounder Nate Mitchell, Mountaintop has raised $5.5M for a player-vs.-player first-person shooter game
  • The seed round comes from an unidentified group of investors, friends, and family
  • The Company surfaced in June, and now it has nearly 20 full-time employees
  • The Company is not yet saying what the game will be about, and hasn’t announced any platforms, but it is actively hiring people with PC and console experience
Phoenix Games acquires match-three mobile studio SmileyGamer (link)
  • Phoenix Games has acquired Belgian mobile games publisher SmileyGamer for an undisclosed amount
  • The purchase will see SmileyGamer work on new seasonal experiences for the mobile platform, while expanding on its already existing games portfolio via live ops, user acquisition and further ad monetization
  • Founded in 2016 by Jochen De Schepper, the publisher has specialized in match-three titles, finding success with Farm Charm, Easter Egg Match and Shape Matcher

M&A and Capital Raising

Activision Blizzard Reports FQ4 2020 Earnings (link)
  • ATVI reported increased YoY revenue during FQ4 2020, and strong growth in its core franchises
    • Reported FQ4 2020 revenue ex-deferrals of $3,051M representing a 12.7% increase YoY, and exceeding prior revenue outlook of $2,732M
    • The BoD declared a cash dividend of $0.47 per common share, payable on May 6th, 2021 (representing a 15% increase from 2020)
  • ATVI Business Segment Highlights
    • Activision: 128M MAUs in the fourth quarter
      • 2020 was a record year for the Call of Duty franchise, as Activision’s premium and free-to-play experiences, including Call of Duty: Warzone, sustained more than 100M monthly active players, driving ~100% growth in the franchise’s net bookings YoY
      • Call of Duty premium unit sales grew over 40% YoY
      • Call of Duty Mobile delivered its best quarter yet, with the highest level of monthly payers in the West and average spend per payer strongly increasing YoY – the franchise also launched in China in late December, bringing it to a large new market
    • Blizzard: 29M MAUs in the fourth quarter
      • World of Warcraft grew for the full year as the franchise’s net bookings increased 40% YoY, reaching the highest level it has seen in nearly a decade
      • World of Warcraft MAUs grew YoY for the sixth consecutive quarter, contributing significantly to Blizzard’s total MAUs
    • King: 240M MAUs in the fourth quarter
      • In 2020, King achieved its best full year financial performance since Activision Blizzard’s acquisition in 2016
      • In-game net bookings grew by a double-digit percentage YoY, with growth accelerating versus the third quarter
      • Candy Crush, King’s largest franchise, was the top grossing franchise on U.S. app stores, as the game saw double-digit growth YoY in in-game net bookings
      • Advertising net bookings for King grew nearly 50% YoY
EA Reports FQ3 2021 Earnings (link)
  • EA reported strong top line growth during FQ3 2021
    • Reported FQ3 2021 net bookings of $2,400M representing a 19% increase YoY, exceeded prior net bookings outlook ($2,350M) and exceeding consensus expectations ($2,388M)
    • EA paid its first quarterly dividend of $0.17 per share in FQ3 2021 and announced that it will pay an additional dividend of $0.17 per share in March
  • EA’s marquee franchises have continued to see strong performance
    • EA launched four games during FQ3 2021 (FIFA 21, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered, and NHL 21)
    • The Company indicated that it will announce the next Battlefield title in the coming months, with a targeted release date by the 2021 holiday season
    • EA SPORTS franchises have engaged more than 230M people over the past fiscal year
    • FIFA Ultimate Team matches have grown 177% YoY, and experienced a record of nearly 6M daily active players in December
    • Over the last ten fiscal years, FIFA and Madden live services have grown at a CAGR of nearly 50% and 60% respectively
  • EA SPORTS is a focus area for future growth
    • EA announced that it will return to collegiate sports through the development of a college football game that will feature logos, stadiums, uniforms, gameday traditions and more, but will not include student-athlete names, images, and likenesses
    • The Company also announced a multi-year UEFA Club Competition license extension to reinforce EA’s positioning as the leading soccer video game developer
    • The proposed acquisition of racing game developer Codemasters will expand EA SPORTS’ offerings into F1 racing, a high-growth global sport
Nintendo Reports FQ4 2020 Earnings (link)
  • The Company reported a successful holiday quarter, in which Switch sales were higher than ever, and software sales were strong
    • The Company achieved sales of $6,041M compared to consensus of $5,552M, and reported EPS of $13.06 compared to consensus of $10.36
    • 11.57M consoles were sold in total, bringing the device to nearly 80M sold since its launch in 2017
    • Nearly 76M software units were sold, as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Animal Crossing: New Horizons both crossed the 30M mark, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Pokémon Sword/Shield have now sold more than 20M copies each
    • Nintendo has increased its forecast for FY 2021 to 26.5M switch units, also boosting its net profit estimate 33% to $3.82B
    • The Company expects to launch new titles to Switch including Capcom’s Monster Hunter Rise
Sony Reports FQ3 2020 Earnings (link)
  • Overall, Sony reported a strong quarter, achieving sales of $25.656B compared to consensus of $23.904B
    • Game & Network Services increased to $8.42B in Sales and $760M in Operating Income in Q3 ‘20, up 40% and 50% respectively YoY
    • Game & Network Services is expected to generate $25.03B in Sales and $3.24B in Operating Income for FY20, up 33% and 43% respectively compared to FY19
  • Game & Network Services growth was driven by an increase in game software sales including add-on content, and an increase in hardware sales due to the PlayStation 5 launch
    • The Company expects higher-than-expected game software sales, peripheral device, and PS Plus sales to continue
    • The PlayStation 5 achieved 4.5M unit sales in Q3 ’20 (compared to the 17.8M of PS4s sold in FY18 and 13.5M sold in FY19)
    • Game & Network Services revenue mix for Q3 ’20 is comprised of Hardware (27%), Physical Software (6%), Digital Software (20%), Add-on Content (29%), Network Services (11%), and Other (7%)
  • PS Plus subscribers and MAUs on PlayStation Network held steady over the quarter
    • PS Plus subscribers increased ~3% QoQ to 47.4M, representing a 22% increase YoY
    • PS Plus MAUs increased ~5.5% QoQ to 114M
  • PlayStation 5
    • Currently, the Company has achieved 4.5M sell-in units through Q3 ‘20
    • Sony is on track to meet its sales goal for the fiscal year of more than 7.6M units, but has not been able to fully meet the high level of demand from customers
    • Total PlayStation user gameplay time in December was ~30% higher than the same month of the previous fiscal year
    • By the end of 2020, 87% of PS5 users were subscribers to PlayStation Plus
    • First-party game Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales recorded sell-through of 4.1M units at the end of 2020
Unity Reports FQ4 2020 Earnings (link)
  • Unity reported solid results for FQ4 2020 and for its full year, which included its first few months as a public company, though the Company traded down ~11% in after-market trading after reporting earnings due to lower forecasted growth, and perceived headwinds as a result of Apple’s impending changes to IDFA
    • Reported total revenue for FQ4 and FY 2020 of $220M and $772M, representing a 39% and 43% YoY increase respectively
    • On a per share basis, Unity’s FQ4 and full year non-GAAP net loss was ($0.10) and ($0.39), respectively, vs. consensus of ($0.14) and ($0.37)
  • Key drivers of FQ4 and FY 2020 results
    • Unity grew its customers who are >$100k 7.3% QoQ and 32% YoY
    • Games made with Unity accounted for 71% of the top 1,000 mobile games in FQ4
    • MAUs who consumed content created or operated with Unity reached on average 2.7B per month in FQ4, up 63% YoY
    • Applications built with Unity were downloaded on average 5B times per month in FQ4, up 41% YoY
  • Segment Performance
    • Create Solutions
      • Revenue in FQ4 increased 39% YoY to $67M
      • Revenue for the full year grew 37% YoY to $231
    • Operate Solutions
      • Revenue in FQ4 increased 55% YoY to $134M
      • Revenue for the full year grew 61% YoY to $471
    • ​​​​​​​Strategic Partnerships and Other Revenue
      • Revenue in FQ4 decreased 19% YoY to $19M
      • Revenue for the full year decreased 12% YoY to $70M
Skillz and the NFL to Launch Contest for Branded Mobile Multiplayer Games (link)
  • The NFL is one of a handful of the world’s most valuable sports leagues, with perhaps 500M people familiar with the brand
  • The league announced a partnership with newly public game-platform operator Skillz for a contest to develop a league-branded multiplayer Mobile title
  • Contest winners will get the NFL brand attached to their title, which Skillz CEO Andrew Paradise said in an interview could be a potentially hugely valuable differentiator
Google stops Stadia game development and closes its studios (link)
  • Just slightly over a year after launching its Stadia platform, Google is starting to scale back its gaming ventures
  • The Company is closing its two game development studios and cancelling its projects aside from “any near-term planned games”, as reported by Kotaku
  • Google started the Stadia Games and Entertainment division in March of 2019
Blizzard confirms "multiple" free-to-play World of Warcraft games are on the way (link)
  • Activision Blizzard has revealed that it has "multiple" free-to-play World of Warcraft games in development for Mobile
  • The unannounced titles were confirmed by CEO Bobby Kotick during the Company's latest earnings call, noting that both classic and modern games have seen a rejuvenated interest throughout 2020
  • Additionally, Blizzard was reportedly working on a Pokémon GO-styled World of Warcraft spin-off for the platform in November 2018

Others

Apex Legends on Nintendo Switch launches March 9 (link)
  • The studio is announcing the release date for season 8 of its battle royale shooter, and that may include the release date for the game on Nintendo’s hybrid home/handheld console
  • Apex Legends hits Switch on March 9, according to a press release posted by a Japanese gaming news site
  • Developer Panic Button is overseeing development of the Switch port of Apex Legends
Wildlife Studios opens Never Forget Games studio in San Francisco (link)
  • Never Forget Games is the first game studio that Wildlife Studios has set up beyond its core company, which has employees working on both games and publishing infrastructure
  • Wildlife Studios recently raised $120M at a $3B valuation on the strength of its mobile games such as Sniper 3D, Zooba, Tennis Clash, and War Machines
  • Over nine years, Wildlife has launched more than 60 games, and has grown to more than 850 employees
  • Wildlife CEO Victor Lazarte said in an interview with GamesBeat that Ray Mazza and Michael Duke will lead the new studio in San Francisco
Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV won’t release until 2022 (link)
  • Activision Blizzard, the developer of the two games announced that it does not expect either game to be a part of its 2021 financials
  • The Company noted that Blizzard will be releasing new projects during 2022

Gaming Public Multiples

Feature-Image-Wk-02

GGP Gaming Weekly – Week 02

Highlights

Playtika's initial valuation range is ~$9B-$10B in its U.S. IPO (link)

  • Playtika, a mobile gaming company owned by a Chinese investor group, said on Thursday it was aiming to raise as much as $1.67B in its initial public offering
  • Certain funds and accounts managed by subsidiaries of BlackRock, Caledonia, Dragoneer Investment Group, and Tiger Global have indicated an interest in purchasing up to $600M in the aggregate in shares of common stock in the offering at the initial public offering price
  • At the midpoint of the proposed range, Playtika Holding would command a fully diluted market value of ~$9.7B
  • The company has produced nine games ranking in the top 100 highest grossing mobile games in the US, based on total in-app purchases (nine months ended September 30, 2020)
Apple removes 39,000 titles from its Chinese App Store (link)
  • Apple removed 39,000 games from its Chinese App Store on December 31st, which marks the most amount of games removed by Apple in a single day
  • Apple had previously warned developers that it would remove unlicensed games in December
Riot Games unveils plans for League of Legends universe in 2021 (link)
  • Riot Games has unveiled its plans for more updates and esports events in the League of Legends universe for 2021
  • In 2021, Riot Games will take the initial steps toward building the Wild Rift esports ecosystem, creating a framework for players to compete globally and expanding on the previously announced tournaments in Southeast Asia and Japan
  • North American players will be able to access the Wild Rift open beta beginning in early 2021

M&A and Capital Raising

Roblox Raises $520M led by Altimeter Capital and Dragoneer Investment Group (link)
LionTree served as exclusive financial advisor to Warner Music Group on its strategic investment in the round
  • The Series H funding values the company at $29.5B and the proceeds from the financing will advance Roblox’s growth initiatives and mission to build a human co-experience platform that enables shared experiences among billions of users
  • The Company intends to go public via direct listing after raising $520M in its Series H
Niantic acquires Mayhem to boost social gaming communities (link)
  • Pokémon GO creator, Niantic, has acquired social gaming community platform Mayhem
  • Mayhem was founded in San Francisco in 2017 with the goal of bringing gamers together through live interactive experiences
  • Niantic CEO, John Hanke, said in a blog post that Mayhem team’s expertise in designing social gaming experiences and online community building will help Niantic drive new ways to connect its global community of players
  • The majority of Mayhem’s team will join the Company, including Mayhem CEO Ivan Zhou, who will be part of Niantic’s social platform product team
Nintendo acquires Luigi’s Mansion 3 developer Next Level Games (link)
  • Nintendo announced that it is acquiring Luigi’s Mansion 3 developer Next Level Games
  • The Vancouver-based studio will join Nintendo’s first-party teams like Retro Studios and Nintendo Software Technology as a wholly owned subsidiary
  • Luigi’s Mansion 3 has surpassed 8M copies sold and was the No. 15 best-seller in the US in November
  • This is the first acquisition for Nintendo since Monolith Software in 2007
Epic Games acquires RAD Game Tools (link)
  • Unreal Engine creator Epic Games has acquired software development firm RAD Game Tools
  • RAD’s offerings have been used in around 25,000 games, including Epic's flagship title Fortnite
  • The acquisition will not prevent RAD Game Tools from continuing its work with other companies, across TV, film and games
Nordisk Games acquires 40% of MercurySteam (link)
  • Danish media giant Nordisk Games has acquired 40% of Spanish developer MercurySteam for an undisclosed sum
  • MercurySteam has previously worked on Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and the Metroid series, and in 2017 began developing its own episodic game Raiders of the Broken Planet, which was later rebranded as Spacelords

Others

Among Us clone 'Werewolf Among Us' accumulates 663k lifetime downloads (link)
  • A clone of social deduction mega-hit Among Us known as 'Werewolf Among Us', developed by Shenzhen Youliang Technology, has generated an estimated 663,000 in mobile downloads, according to Sensor Tower
  • Werewolf Among us has gone on to top the free game download chart on the App Store in China, since launching in the country on October 28th, 2020
Niantic brings The North Face x Gucci collection to Pokémon GO (link)
  • Niantic has collaborated with The North Face x Gucci collection to bring cosmetic items to Pokémon GO
  • The items can be collected from 100 PokeStops around the world, and players can match their in-game character by buying the items in person

Gaming Public Multiples

2021 Perspectives

GGP 2021 Perspectives

In place of this week’s newsletter, we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect. 2020 was unprecedented in so many respects. This was a profoundly challenging year but it also marked a step function change in the gaming market. It ended up being a productive year despite its many trials. We closed 8 advisory transactions in 2020, including Phoenix Lab’s sale to GarenaFoxNext’s sale to ScopelyAppLovin’s acquisition of Machine ZoneSkillz’s SPAC merger with Flying Eagle Acquisition Corp.TSG’s investment in Scopely, and Daybreak’s sale to EG7. We expect the frenzied pace of transaction activity to accelerate further from here.

We co-founded Griffin Gaming Partners with Phil Sanderson and Peter Levin and have some of the world’s largest strategic investors backing the fund. With ~$250 million in assets under management, Griffin is now among the largest venture vehicles focused on gaming and is proud to support some of the most promising companies in the sector. The first fund is over half deployed, having made investments in SkillzDiscordAppLovinTactile Games, Wave, N3TWORKSubspaceFunzySuperSocial, and Spyke, among others. Our objective is to be the definitive resource for companies raising capital at all stages and are excited about the progress we’ve made to that end.

Sitting at the intersection of so much movement, we wanted to share predictions for the coming year from our vantage point.

BROADER PERSPECTIVES: OBSERVATIONS FROM THE PAST DECADE

The last decade has proved a dramatic transformation for gaming companies. Electronic Arts, for example, traded at less than 1x its next year’s estimated revenue and less than 4x its anticipated EBITDA. The reasons were relatively straight forward: many investors believed its performance to be unpredictable and it depended on third-party licenses. Shipping packaged software was a hard business and even more so when one owed royalties for the use of third-party IP.

Margins for the largest Western gaming companies have naturally expanded over the past decade as consumers shifted from purchasing physical copies of software to digital. As EA has diversified, demonstrated a track record of relatively consistent execution in marquee titles like FIFA, and exploited new adjacent opportunities such as Ultimate Team, the market has come to ascribe very different multiples: 6x and 17x 2021 revenues and EBITDA, respectively. EA is not alone in this “re-rating”; Take-Two, Activision Blizzard, and Ubisoft have all grown revenue and earnings but not nearly enough to explain the ~1000% appreciation in their stock prices since 2011.

This has proven to be a wildly sentiment-driven sector. As Activision Blizzard was perceived to be driving a significant proportion of the emerging momentum around eSports, its trading multiples expanded significantly. When EA’s acquired studio Respawn launched Apex Legends, its market cap increased by $5 billion over the next two weeks without much visibility into users, revenues, or profits from the new free-to-play hit franchise. Similarly, Nintendo’s market cap was up 36% in the two days following its announced partnership with mobile game developer DeNA without providing much detail on the specifics of the business terms. These are just a few of countless examples.

IMPLICATIONS FOR MOBILE GAMING COMPANIES TODAY

Mobile games companies have long suffered public perception created by King’s trading post-IPO. King marketed an IPO story centered around its unique approach to game development that produced one of the largest entertainment franchises of all time: Candy Crush. Yet, despite this meteoric success, which pushed King to over 500 million monthly active users at its peak, King failed to produce similar successes outside of the Match-3 genre. Candy Crush and its progeny seemed at the time to many public investors to be on a “decay curve” given low switching cost for users on mobile and resulting churn, which many investors extrapolated asymptotically ad infinitum. As a consequence, King traded as low as 2-3x its EBITDA.

So how is King doing today? Activision Blizzard acquired King in 2015 for $5.9 billion, representing less than 6x its expected EBITDA. Candy Crush users did indeed decay to a nadir of just under 250 million but the user numbers stabilized there.

Let that sink in: King owns and operates an entertainment franchise that a quarter of a billion people interact with each month, generates $2 billion of revenue and approaching $1 billion of operating income annually based on its Q3 2020 run-rate. This dwarfs almost every traditional entertainment franchise on the planet and although buried within Activision Blizzard, we estimate King may account for as much as $20 billion of Activision Blizzard’s $73 billion market cap today. It seems that Activision Blizzard saw something in King others did not.

PUBLIC MARKETS ARE OPENING BACK UP FOR GAME COMPANIES

With King’s lackluster performance and Zynga also trading poorly in the years immediately following its IPO, Western public markets were generally regarded as inhospitable for game companies. In dozens of strategic assignments for clients in the sector, only a very small minority considered a public exit as a serious alternative.

Today, we see euphoric appetite among public investors for the “picks and shovels” of the gaming ecosystem. Unity, for example, offers the most prolific game development software and has 1.5 million developers using its tools on a monthly basis and 2.5 billion monthly active end users who consumed content that was created or operated with Unity solutions.

Unity went public in September at a $16 billion valuation, which represented a 15x multiple of its expected revenues but has traded up dramatically to as high as $55 billion. Unity is only expected to grow sales 26% next year and is unprofitable according to consensus analyst estimates.

Unity is, in our view, among the best positioned companies to execute against the opportunity to bring ad-based monetization to the billions of users that play mobile games but don’t spend on in-app purchases. While approximately a third of all mobile downloads are games, only $3 billion of the $133 billion mobile advertising market is accounted for by in-game advertising. This represents a staggering opportunity but it is also a testament to the market environment to witness the degree to which Unity is credited for its potential future execution against this opportunity (and others) by current trading levels.

Skillz is another extraordinary example of a recent enormously successful IPO. We helped broker a merger with a SPAC at a $3.5 billion valuation just months after it raised capital privately at a significantly lower valuation. Skillz trades today at an $8 billion market cap and commands a 21x multiple of its expected 2021 revenue. Skillz is notably expected to grow revenues next year by 63% and also has profitable unit economics.

While SPAC mergers are extremely complex and require significant negotiation with the nominal acquirer, in this case, we believe it produced a superior outcome relative to a traditional IPO and a much lower cost of capital for Skillz going forward than had it stayed private. It is a sharp example of why we believe SPACs are more than just a flash in the pan, especially for sectors like gaming where public investor sentiment is rapidly evolving.

One interesting note from the process: Skillz was marketed to public investors without reference to mobile gaming companies like Zynga, Glu, or SciPlay given Skillz’s position as a platform. Skillz enables casual eSports tournaments and head-to-head contests with prizes for millions of mobile game players. Only time will tell but this mechanism for monetizing game content may end up rivaling that of in-app purchases, which today represent over 80% of all mobile App Store revenues according to AppAnnie.

IN THIS GOLD RUSH, IT WILL BE GOOD TO BE LOOKING FOR GOLD TOO

There is something incongruous with how public markets require companies like Zynga, Glu, and SciPlay to “show me” before ascribing much credit for potential new games or more importantly, to acquire businesses that accelerate growth and add to scale in a business that will ultimately benefit immensely from it.

In 2021, expect that to fade as a host of both gaming infrastructure and content companies, including Roblox, Playtika, and others that have demonstrated an ability to sustain growth, tap public markets. Many of these businesses, with enhanced cash war chests and a public currency will aggressively pursue acquisitions to accelerate growth much the way Zynga, Stillfront, Embracer, MTGx, and EG7 have.

Mobile gaming has emerged over the past decade as one of the most significant developments in entertainment. A niche business a decade ago has transformed into an $86 billion global market and one of the fastest growing entertainment markets today. One-third of the world’s population plays mobile games according to TechCrunch. With such incredible reach, lightning-in-a-bottle moments like Niantic’s 2016 launch of Pokémon GO are possible and allow for a piece of software to reach a billion users. As mobile screen resolution and compute power increase, and broadband cellular networks proliferate, increasingly immersive and social experiences are being created “mobile-first” in gaming.

Against this incredibly constructive market backdrop, extraordinary competition has emerged. The stakes are so high — billions in revenues and profits for the market leaders — and the cost of entry so low, more than a million mobile games have been created. Predicting those explosive hits like Pokémon GO is possible, we believe, but difficult. At Griffin, we have already evaluated close to a thousand venture financing opportunities since launching the fund.

While the market leaders in China, such as Tencent and NetEase, moved aggressively against the market opportunity for mobile games, and now generate ~80% of their games revenue from mobile, Western leaders have been much slower to increase their exposure to mobile, with such revenues representing only 10% - 30% of their total games revenue with WB Games as a notable exception.

Producing mobile hits is tough business, even for seasoned AAA gaming companies, given how many companies there are launching new games each year. Switching costs for most users are low, producing, as Kevin Chou, formerly Kabam’s CEO, observed, “shark fin” patterns of early success but high churn and rapid decay of user bases. Many of the larger gaming companies have opted to buy instead of build, creating an increasingly constructive market for mobile games businesses to find buyers willing to pay premium multiples.

ACQUIRED GROWTH IS GROWTH -- AND, FOR MANY, SUSTAINABLE

In examining recent consolidation in mobile gaming, Zynga’s history is illuminating. Notwithstanding its choppy start to life as a public company, Zynga has been on a terrific trajectory since Frank Gibeau took the CEO mantle back in 2016. He brought on a seasoned team of operators and set a new strategic vision for the business to focus organic efforts on Zynga’s biggest franchises (i.e., a “fewer, bigger, better” strategy akin to what had worked at EA), reducing costs, and most importantly, with an explicit intention to grow through acquisitions.

If we take the beginning of 2017 as the line of demarcation, at which point, Frank’s credible and compelling strategy had been clearly articulated, there are a number of remarkable dynamics to the next four year’s trading. At that point in time, Zynga’s beta, which takes account of both volatility and the way Zynga’s returns vary with market returns, was 1.3, Today, Zynga’s unlevered beta is an incredibly low 0.19. To distill this down to practical implications: the less volatile the returns and the less those returns move in line with the market returns, the lower the required return should be for an investor to hold the security. An investor who bought Zynga at the beginning of 2017, is up 3.8x, having produced an IRR of 40%. If the expected returns needed only be low double digits and the multiples it trades at today are similar, Zynga must have performed unforeseeably well to explain these anomalously high returns?

Zynga has performed well but not that well. If you drill down into Zynga’s growth, it turns out that nearly the entirety of its tremendous growth has been driven by its acquisitions. It has embarked, just as Frank said he would, on an aggressive string of acquisitions. It bought Peak’s card game assets, Gram Games, Small Giant, the remainder of Peak Games, and Rollic. Each deal has its own nuances, of course, but notably missing is the analogue to Caesar’s acquisition of Playtika in 2011 for ~$100 million. It of course sold the business to a Chinese consortium in 2016 for $4.4 billion.

Zynga, by contrast, has paid relatively full prices for its acquisitions. In the case of Peak Games, Zynga paid $1.8 billion for a company whose two hit titles, Toy Blast and Toon Blast, had category-leading user retention statistics. The business had single digit top line growth and still garnered a reported 15x EBITDA multiple. While almost 3 times the multiple Activision Blizzard paid for King, the market responded quite positively to the deal, with Zynga’s market cap increasing $630 million on the day of announcement. While Zynga has paid up and derived little benefit from synergies thus far, they are, as a package, strong strategic moves. However, in a market so thoroughly fragmented, with so many opportunities to buy, it’s hard to resist concluding that Zynga was mis-priced and materially undervalued back in 2017.

MANY MOBILE FRANCHISES WILL HAVE LONG LIVES

The key risk factor for mobile game developers has always been sustainability of growth. In the lead up to the sale of Kabam, we highlighted to potential buyers an important dynamic among the millions of players in the hit Marvel Contest of Champions game. The metrics for the whole population of players masked what was going on with a subset of players, dubbed Regulars, or players that had played 7 of the past 7 days. Those were players, we argued, that had often formed a sustaining habit. For many, the game had become a way of life. Regular customers, it turned out, monetized more like a subscriber. Cohorts of these users paid a very consistent and high sum each month despite being under no obligation to do so. They also had almost no propensity to churn. In total, Regulars accounted for approximately 80% of the overall game’s revenue.

One runs the risk in data mining of confusing correlation with causation, but we’ve now had ample opportunity to test the hypothesis out of sample. After observing the subsequent performance of Marvel Contest of Champions and countless other games, we’ve found this to be a recurring dynamic.

Many games have huge subsets of their player populations that form daily habits. Their status in these games often matters. They have friends in the games. They sometimes have enemies. They engage for hours every day. They simply don’t churn like the average statistics would predict. In many cases, mobile game developers can come up with new virtual goods and services to offer them. Regulars represent a subset of overall users, but we believe valuing the business opportunity derived from those most highly engaged users should look more like a software-as-a-service company valuation than the historical approach to mobile game company valuations.

Moreover, mobile games are increasingly akin to living organisms which evolve continuously. Pokémon GO has transformed radically since it launched in the summer of 2016. It further altered gameplay specifically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which curbed some of its historical outdoor gameplay patterns. As a result, Niantic delivered record revenue and player engagement in 2020.

Just as the market came to appreciate that AAA gaming companies had competitive advantages that would sustain and allow for growth in core franchises, we believe markets will afford increasing credit to mobile gaming leaders. The best executing private mobile game companies have grown dramatically, not only by launching new, unforeseeable hits, but also by scaling existing titles through profitable spend on user acquisition and by acquiring complementary businesses. Market leaders like AppLovin, Jam City, Moon Active, Niantic, Playrix, PlayStudios, Playtika, Scopely, Wildlife, Zynga, and many others are larger (in some cases, dramatically) and more valuable today than they were in 2017.

SCALE WILL INCREASINGLY MATTER IN MOBILE GAMING

Mobile is a market where scale will ultimately matter. The paradox is that scale, at least thus far, has not demonstrated an ability to help companies discover the next big hit. If you look closely at the Among Us examples of explosive success, they are very rarely produced by the largest Western developers. We do expect some change to that dynamic over time. However, sustaining and growing a game is a business that already dramatically favors scaled operators. Most mobile games need to spend significantly to acquire users through paid marketing channels. They also benefit from scale in running in-game events, producing new content for hyper-engaged users, and managing complex virtual economies.

Mobile gaming gives the developer the benefit of the data from every player interaction with the software and ability to track and ultimately model the results. Did a particular game mechanic cause a player to engage more deeply? Did it cause the player to churn? Did it lead to increased monetization?

The very same stimulus may very likely lead to a different result for a different player. The largest mobile game companies are building sophisticated player segmentation tools, which we believe will ultimately allow for customized and nearly individualized player paths through games. This will be an incredible application of machine learning technology for companies to be able to ingest such enormous quantities of data and tune the player experience algorithmically in response. Given the near-infinite variability of virtual economies and that the marginal cost of the virtual goods is close to zero at scale, we expect some extraordinary business results as mobile game companies systematize and automate maximization of lifetime value of players.

MOBILE GAME ADVERTISING WILL PRODUCE BILLIONS IN NEW MARKET VALUE

The last and perhaps more immediate opportunity for mobile game developers is advertising. King is an example to illustrate the point. When King was sold, it received very little if any value for the untapped engagement of non-paying players. At the time of the acquisition, only 3% of King’s users paid for in-app purchases.

The aggregate engagement was astounding. Users played 1.4 billion games per day. As is very common in mobile gaming, which is almost entirely a market of products that are free-to-play, the vast majority of users were “free riders”. Introducing ads in a way that doesn’t cause future payers to churn or allow competitors to pick off your audience is a non-trivial exercise, but it is increasingly being done. As of its last public disclosure, King’s advertising business generated $150 million of incremental net bookings and is the fastest growing segment within King.

There is an astounding amount of un-monetized time spent in mobile games. Users don’t get to “free ride” in Facebook, YouTube, or Snapchat, nor would many expect to. In the next year and beyond, we expect game developers to increasingly avail themselves of this ancillary revenue stream. The mobile game advertising ecosystem is evolving rapidly and stands to benefit many mobile games developers significantly.

CONCLUDING PERSPECTIVES

Although extremely difficult to forecast with precision, we expect public markets to increasingly “price in” the probability of growth in existing franchises, new games, successful acquisitions, and new monetization opportunities for games companies.

As games increasingly facilitate digital interactions, we believe we will see the creation of what pundits have coined the “metaverse”. One of the most reflective CEOs I know, Dave Baszucki, recently said quite artfully: “The Metaverse is arguably as big a shift in online communication as the telephone or the internet. Within the next few decades its applications will exceed our wildest imaginations. Perhaps the greatest opportunity it presents is to bring together people from all walks of life and foster a civil digital society. In 2021, that new society will begin to emerge for real.”

Whether Roblox or Epic will run one Metaverse or there will be a multitude of metaverses that emerge from the incredible engagement and immersion players have with their favorite games remains to be seen but it seems entirely likely that games will continue to consume more and more of our attention and facilitate an increasing proportion of social interactions.

Robert Putnam, in his seminal work Bowling Alone, decries the collapse of community engagement in modern society. We see gaming at the heart of a potential rebirth of social capital. Gaming, in many respects, has evolved in a way that facilitates social interaction, deepens relationships, and provides people around the world a new way to connect with one another. In games, we have the opportunity to “bowl together” at scale and perhaps build even deeper social roots than formed through community activities in the analogue world. For that potential, we are incredibly hopeful around the role gaming can play in bringing our world closer together.

THANK YOU!

Thanks to our clients and friends for all of your support. We hope to repay the kindness with creative ideas on how to support your growth. Feel free to reach out at any point if we can help provide advice or just to chat. Looking forward to the year ahead!

Best,
Nick

P.S. I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to this in one way or another and specifically, my team, Frankie Zhu, Jon Bikoff, and Seth Nutt, as well as Dean Takahashi, who kindly contributed to this directly with his suggested edits and whose work I hyperlink liberally 🙂

GGP Gaming Weekly - Wk 52

GGP Gaming Weekly – Week 52

Highlights

Apple’s China App Store Sheds Videogames as Beijing Tightens Internet Control (link)

  • Apple is removing thousands of gaming apps from the App Store in China as the government is enforcing restrictions on various types of content
  • Earlier in December, Apple warned Chinese game developers that a new wave of paid gaming apps was at risk of removal from its app store and asked developers to submit proof of a government license
  • In 2019, Apple had 272,000 games in its China App Store and has removed at least 94,000 game apps in 2020, far exceeding the 25,000 game apps taken down in 2019

KamaGames hits 150M unique users across its library (link)

  • Social casino games Company KamaGames has hit 150M unique users across its portfolio, with help from its most successful games, Pokerist and BlackJackist
  • The Company’s most recent non-social casino release, Durak, has outperformed expectations with 1.5M downloads after entering soft launch earlier this year

M&A and Capital Raising

Blackstone to make ~$400M majority investment in mobile app marketer Liftoff (link)

  • Blackstone has agreed to invest ~$400M in mobile app marketing optimization platform Liftoff, resulting in a majority stake in the Company
  • California-based Liftoff was founded in 2012 with a focus on mobile app marketing and today delivers more than a billion ads each day to users in 90 countries and across more than 500,000 mobile publishers
  • Roughly half of Liftoff’s business is catered to mobile games

Moon Active acquires Family Island mobile game maker Melsoft (link)

  • Israel-based Moon Active announced the acquisition of Cyprus-based mobile game company Melsoft, the developer of Family Island and MyCafe
  • Melsoft has an annual revenue run-rate of more than $160M
  • Moon Active’s flagship Coin Master game is ranked as the fourth highest-earning mobile game in the world for 2020, and has surpassed $1B in revenue to date

ByteDance is looking to acquire mobile games publisher CMGE, according to Reuters (link)

  • ByteDance is rumored to be in talks to purchase mobile games publisher CMGE Technology Group, according to Reuters
  • ByteDance is allegedly seeking to buy the 27.6% stake in GMGE that is held by Fairview Ridge Investment, which is said to be worth $275M
  • The TikTok parent company has previously stepped into the games industry through the launch of a new mobile games storefront and publishing arm

Mag Interactive acquires Swedish studio Apprope (link)

  • Mobile games specialist Mag Interactive has acquired Swedish studio Apprope for upfront cash consideration of ~$6M with additional consideration of ~$6M depending on profit performance over the next 3 years
  • Apprope is best known for its word-based title Word Bubbles, which has generated ~$12M, and its games have been downloaded 55M times
  • Recently, Apprope released Word Mansion, and has seen a significant increase in sales and downloads

Voodoo acquires Paris-based studio OHM Games (link)

  • French mobile games specialist Voodoo has acquired Paris-based studio OHM Games for an undisclosed transaction value
  • Voodoo and OHM were partners prior to merging and published four titles together in 2020
  • OHM Games is best known for mobile titles including Knock Balls, Push 'em All, Knock 'em All, Bullet Rush and Shortcut Run, with its portfolio of games achieving over 260M downloads to date

Others

Rovio names Alexandre Pelletier-Normand as its new CEO (link)

  • Finnish mobile games specialist Rovio has named current Executive Vice President for Games, Alexandre Pelletier-Normand, as its new CEO
  • Current Rovio CEO, Kati Levoranta, confirmed she would step down from the role in October

Navi esports club launches ‘metaverse’ with DMarket in-game trading platform (link)

  • Esports club Navi, is launching a new gaming portal, or “metaverse,” with the help of blockchain-based game tech company DMarket
  • Navi will launch NaviNation, which lets fans craft, sell, and buy digital assets and receive rewards and gifts from the team and partners
  • The project is powered by the software application Drop, developed by Los Angeles-based DMarket

Gaming Public Multiples

Feature-Image-Template-wk-51

GGP Gaming Weekly – Week 51

Highlights

Roblox Delays IPO Until Next Year (link)

  • The Company has decided to delay its initial public offering until next year, in response to the enthusiastic market reaction for the DoorDash and Airbnb IPOs this past week making it difficult to price shares accurately
  • The Company’s co-founder and chief executive, David Baszucki, announced the decision in a memo to employees on Friday, saying that waiting provided “an opportunity to improve our specific process for employees, shareholders and future investors both big and small.”

Cyberpunk 2077 has already recouped its development costs (link)

  • The game has already achieved high ratings throughout the Gaming industry, however CD Projekt’s stock traded down ~25% in the week leading up to announcement
  • In a memo issued last week, CD Projekt — the parent company of developer CD Projekt Red — said that its revenue from digital pre-order sales alone exceeds all of Cyberpunk 2077’s production costs and all of the Company’s marketing and promotional costs for the game this year
  • In a series of tweets issued on Thursday, CD Projekt announced that Cyberpunk 2077 had been pre-ordered more than 8M times
  • The Company also announced that sales of Cyberpunk 2077 on Steam crossed the $50M mark “over 2 weeks ago,” meaning that from that point forward, it has been receiving 80% royalties from the platform

Mobile game and app spending will grow 25% to $112B in 2020 (link)

  • Mobile game and app spending will grow 25% to $112B in 2020, according to year-end estimates from mobile data and analytics researcher App Annie
  • $0.65 of every dollar spent went to iOS, spend on Google Play will grow close to 30% in 2020
  • In gaming, the standout successes were Among Us, My Talking Tom Friends, Roblox, and Call of Duty: Mobile. My Talking Tom Friends was one of the few new games to penetrate the top-10 lists
  • Roblox also broke into the top 10 apps by consumer spending in 2020. Call of Duty: Mobile surpassed nearly a billion hours on Android phones in the peak month of its first year (October)

Consoles set new records in November Launch (link)

  • PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launched last month, and they helped set a new November record, according to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group
  • Despite performance of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch sales have maintained high numbers, selling more than 1.3M units in November
  • Consumers spent a November record $1.4B on new video game hardware, a 58% increase compared to a year ago
  • Growth was driven by the launches of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. YTD hardware spending reached $4B, 34% higher than a year ago

Minecraft racks up the most views of any game on YouTube in 2020 (link)

  • Mojang's Minecraft was the most-watched game on YouTube this year, with 201B views on the platform in 2020
  • Roblox came in second place with 75B views and Garena Free Fire finished in third with 72B views
  • YouTube Gaming surpassed 100B of hours watched across more than 40M channels dedicated to gaming in 2020

Project xCloud is coming to iOS devices in Spring 2021 (link)

  • Microsoft's Project xCloud, the Company’s cloud gaming service, will enter beta on iOS devices next year
  • Project xCloud was initially available on iOS via the App Store in beta earlier in 2020, but was removed after Apple determined that the application breached App Store policies
  • Microsoft’s cloud gamming service will also enter new markets including Australia, Japan, Brazil, and Mexico in spring 2021

Google releases Stadia in eight European countries, including Poland and Portugal (link)

  • Google has launched its Stadia streaming service in more European countries, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Switzerland
  • In total, Stadia now works in 22 countries

Control has sold over 2M copies (link)

  • Control debuted in August 2019. It is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S versions are coming in 2021
  • Bigger has a strong profile, with four casual games that have already been downloaded more than 75M times in the past year. These have already made the company profitable
  • In 2019, 60% of Controls sales were digital. In 2020, that skyrocketed up to 90% as social-distancing gamers were happier staying at home and avoiding brick-and-mortar stores

The Last of Us Part II and Among Us win game of the year  (link)

  • The Last of Us Part 2 won game of the year among other categories, including best game direction, narrative, and action & adventure game
  • Other award winners included Final Fantasy VII Remake for best role-playing game and best score and music, with popular lockdown hit Among Us winning best multiplayer and best mobile game

M&A and Capital Raising

According to Sky News, EA has allegedly entered the race to acquire Codemasters alongside Take-Two (link)

  • Electronic Arts, which already owns a UK racing studio in the form of Need for Speed and Burnout developer Criterion, is expected to be revealed as an interested party
  • Take-Two had had already reached an agreement over the terms of the offer, which valued the publicly owned company at $956M
  • EA and Take-Two are the two biggest sports games publishers in the world, and both will be eyeing Codemasters’ hit F1 racing series, which has expanded into esports in recent years and continues to grow in popularity

Modern Times Group acquires mobile studio Hutch (link)

  • Modern Times Group has acquired racing-focused mobile games developer and publisher Hutch in a deal worth up to $375M, implying a ~5.0x revenue multiple and ~21.1x EBIT multiple
  • Consideration for the deal consists of a $275M upfront cash payment and up to $100M of performance-based payments
  • The acquisition has been made through MTG's new holding company GamingGo, which was announced recently alongside increased investment in German games developer InnoGames

Zynga’s Rollic division buys Onnect game for $6M (link)

  • Zynga recently acquired Turkey’s Rollic for $16M, and now Rollic is turning around and buying the matching game Onnect from Chef Game Studio for $6M
  • Onnect has been acquired in full for a closing payment of $6M and a potential future payment of $1M, based on terms and conditions agreed upon by the parties
  • Onnect is a connection-based pair-matching game with challenging levels

Bigger Games raises $6M as Turkey’s startup market heats up (link)

  • Bigger Games has raised $6M to make mobile games as Turkey’s startup market continues to grow
  • Bigger has a strong profile, with four casual games that have already been downloaded more than 75M times in the past year. These have already made the Company profitable
  • The funding comes from Index Ventures, the backer of Roblox, King, Supercell, and Discord. Play Ventures (who backed the company in the pre-seed round), Unity founder David Helgason, and ex-King chief operating officer Stephane Kurgan also participated in this round

Aglet raises $4.5M to make a mobile game out of sneakers (link)

  • The Company, based in Los Angeles and Dusseldorf, Germany, calls itself the developer of a sneaker and culture-focused spatial commerce experience
  • Aglet has now raised $7M since its founding in late 2019
  • Sapphire Sport led the round, with participation from existing investors Lakestar Ventures and Forecast Ventures. Notable angels Matt Miesnieks (6D.ai, Niantic Labs), Nate Mitchell (co-founder Oculus, Mountaintop Studios), and Greg Castle (Anorak Ventures) also participated in the round

Salad Technologies raises $3.2M (link)

  • Salad hopes this plan will position it to define the future of distributed computing at a time when the industry has a voracious appetite for computing power
  • In the past couple of years, Salad has amassed 250,000 computer users, and that user base has generated 1,000 years of compute time. Carthona Capital led the round with additional participation from Kickstart Seed Fund and Royal Street Ventures

New studio Core Loop secures $2.4M (link)

  • Game developer Core Loop has secured $2.4M in funding to create a cross-platform MMO
  • The round featured participation from Galaxy Digital, 1Up Ventures, Initial Capital, Dune Ventures and Sisu Games
  • Core Loop is led by Vincenzo Alagana and Dan Chao
  • Alagana has gained experience on both console and mobile in a career spanning 20 years, and was once the president and CTO of Game of War developer Machine Zone

ForeVR raises $1.5M and unveils VR bowling title (link)

  • The startup has raised $1.5M, and its first game is a VR bowling title
  • The company was founded by industry vets Marcus Segal and Mike Pagano Doom, who both worked at Zynga. They are developing their first game, which is scheduled to be released in early 2021 on Oculus VR headsets

Bombay secures $1M in funding from Lumikai (link)

  • Bangalore-based developer Bombay Play has secured $1M in seed funding from India-based venture capital fund Lumikai
  • Playco and Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron joined the board of directors for Bombay Play
  • Bombay Play has already seen 10M downloads for its first multiplayer game, Card Party

Wizard Games secures investment from Tencent (link)

  • Chinese games studio Wizard has secured an undisclosed investment from Tencent
  • With the proceeds raised, Wizard plans to build upon its development team, as well as build its portfolio of online games across all platforms
  • The studio’s leading title, Battle Teams, has accumulated 500M users worldwide, with its sequel, Battle Teams 2, expected to be released in 2021
  • Despite its shooter focus Wizard has created a new sandbox title dubbed Sea of Craft, it is scheduled to be released in 2021

Modern Times Group increases its investment in InnoGames (link)

  • Modern Times Group has increased its controlling stake to 68% in mobile games developer InnoGames
  • Modern Times Group can purchase an additional 17% of the company for $128M
  • In November 2019, the German games studio surpassed $1B in lifetime revenue

Others

Pokémon GO’s February 20 event will celebrate beloved Kanto region (link)

  • Pokémon GO‘s next big online event will take place on February 20 as the company celebrates the game’s fifth anniversary with a return to the Kanto region
  • This is another example of how the publisher is shifting to a hybrid status for its location-based game, where players can play individually in physical spaces while gathering in large groups through online play
  • During the 12-hour virtual event, all 150 Pokémon originally discovered in the Kanto region will be available as Shiny Pokémon, some for the first time

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands breaks record for biggest PC game launch (link)

  • Blizzard Entertainment announced today that World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Shadowlands, sold over 3.7M copies on its launch day, November 23
  • This breaks the record for biggest launch day for any PC game, beating out the 3.5M copies Blizzard’s own Diablo III managed back in 2012
  • World of Warcraft has been gaining players this year as social distancers have looked for a virtual world to escape to

Halo: Infinite is launching next fall (link)

  • Halo: Infinite isn’t coming in the spring or summer. Developer 343 Industries is now aiming to launch the game in the fall 2021, according to a blog post from director Joseph Staten
  • This is the first time that anyone from Microsoft has given a new release window for the game

JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot launches internal game studio headed by Left 4 Dead creator (link)

  • The entertainment Company run by the Star Wars filmmaker has hired Michael Booth, a veteran game creator behind hits such as Valve’s Left 4 Dead
  • The Santa Monica, California-based Bad Robot Games will now have two different businesses that Sweet will manage
  • It will work on co-development deals with external game partners, and it will also make its own games under the studio headed by Booth, who previously worked at Valve, Blizzard Entertainment, Facebook, and Electronic Arts

Left 4 Dead successor Back 4 Blood launches June 22 (link)

  • Developer Turtle Rock announced that Back 4 Blood, the spiritual successor to the Left 4 Dead series, is coming out on June 22
  • An alpha will launch next week, as the studio announced today at The Game Awards
  • Turtle Rock created Left 4 Dead under Valve back in 2008. The game became popular thanks to its four-player cooperative shooting. It had one sequel in 2009, but the series has been dormant since then

Pearl Abyss’ Crimson Desert will debut in the winter of 2021 (link)

  • Pearl Abyss revealed a new gameplay trailer for Crimson Desert at The Game Awards today. The open-world massively multiplayer role-playing game is coming out for PC and consoles in winter 2021

Microsoft Flight Simulator is coming to Xbox Series X/S in summer 2021 (link)

  • This means a new audience will get a chance to experience its realistic flight models and lifelike replication of Earth on Xbox Series X and S
  • Asobo is focusing on Xbox Series X/S. That means no plans for Flight Simulator for the Xbox One have been made yet

The Elder Scrolls Online’s next expansion is Gates of Oblivion (link)

  • Bethesda revealed the next expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online during The Game Awards today, and it’s Gates of Oblivion. It will release in 2021
  • Developer ZeniMax Studios Online also announced that a better look at Gates of Oblivion will happen during a premier event on January 21
  • The Elder Scrolls Online debuted in 2014 and has a dedicated following thanks to the release of constant updates and expansions. The last expansion, Greymoor, came out this May

Rovio has cancelled development of its new turn-based RPG Angry Birds Legends (link)

  • Rovio has cancelled development of its new turn-based RPG Angry Birds Legends
  • Rovio confirmed that the previously soft-launched title was not where they wanted it to be and therefore felt a full release was not warranted
  • The Company similarly halted development of Angry Birds Tennis following an unsuccessful soft-launch period in October 2020

2K launches NBA SuperCard globally as WWE SuperCard crosses 21M installs (link)

  • 2K Games has launched NBA SuperCard, a F2P mobile collectable card battle game, on iOS and Android devices globally
  • NBA SuperCard was developed by Cat Daddy Games, and previously developed WWE SuperCard which has reached 21M global downloads since its August 2014 launch
  • Cat Daddy Games has already utilized its NBA license to create NBA 2K Mobile and MyNBA 2K21

Gaming Public Multiples

Feature-Image-Template-week-50

GGP Gaming Weekly – Week 50

Highlights

Americans of all ages are spending more on video games (link)

  • People across all demographics are playing more games at higher frequencies, especially on mobile, but this trend also includes Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox
  • An NPD report found that 4 out of 5 consumers in the US played a game in the last six months, and these consumers are spending 26% more time and 33% more money on games than in the same period last year
  • Spending on video games for Americans 45 years old to 54 years old increased 76% while Americans age 55 to 64 increased their spending 29%

Call of Duty hits $3B in bookings in 2020, and Warzone’s Cold War version has been moved to December 16 (link)

  • According to Activision Blizzard, net bookings for Call of Duty crossed $3B in 2020 and the new Call of Duty: Black Ops — Cold War version of Warzone has been delayed from December 10th to December 16th
  • Year-to-date increases for the Call of Duty franchise include net bookings up over 80% and units sold through up over 40% YoY
  • Over 200M people have played Call of Duty this year

Sony doubled TV ad spend for PlayStation 5 launch (link)

  • Gaming brands have increased their TV ad spend in preparation for the holidays: November saw a 77% increase in estimated outlay, increasing to $50M from October’s $28M
  • Over half of this increase is from PlayStation’s heavy promotion of the PlayStation 5 and Call of Duty: Black Ops — Cold War
  • In total, 14 brands aired 75 spots over 4,900 times, resulting in 1.9B TV ad impressions
  • Behind Sony, top ad spenders include Microsoft, Nintendo, Activision Blizzard, and EA

Animal Crossing: New Horizons becomes the fastest-ever game to sell six million copies in Japan (link)

  • According to Game Data Library, Nintendo's Animal Crossing: New Horizons has surpassed six million sales in Japan and is the fastest game to surpass this barrier
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the only the fifth game to hit this milestone in the Japanese market

Fortnite sees a record 15.3M players at the end of its Marvel event (link)

  • Fortnite experienced a record 15.3M concurrent players during the finale of the battle royale Marvel event with an additional 3.4M tuning in through YouTube and Twitch
  • While the Marvel event is over, Epic Games signaled that Fortnite has years to go with its hero-based storyline

Roblox given the go ahead to enter China (link)

  • As reported by the South Morning China Post, Roblox has received a greenlight to enter the Chinese market
  • Tencent will publish the game in China and received licenses for both Mobile and PC, but no release date has yet been provided

Genshin Impact brings in nearly $400M in first 2 months on mobile (link)

  • According to Sensor Tower, Genshin Impact has brought in an estimated $393M in the first two months after its September 28 launch
  • Genshin Impact was the #2 game in terms of generating revenue in the world, behind Tencent’s Honor of Kings
  • The game’s success is global and signals that mobile players are looking for more substantial RPGs that can rival PC/Console offerings

M&A and Capital Raising

Swedish-based EG7 acquires Daybreak Game Company for $300M (link)
LionTree advised Daybreak Game Company on its sale to EG7

  • Daybreak is a San Diego, CA based leading MMORPG video game developer and publisher
    • The Company possesses globally recognized third-party IPs, combined with valuable original IPs
    • The Company has deep expertise in the free-to-play and games-as-a-service business model, and their games feature a loyal user base comprised of ~178M registered users
  • EG7 is a Sweden-based group of companies that develops, markets, publishes, and distributes video games for PC, Console, and Mobile
    • The Company owns a portfolio of other game developers, ad businesses, and software development companies including Big Blue Bubble, Piranha Games, Sold Out, Antimater Games, and others
  • The transaction represents a large addition to EG7’s portfolio
    • Transaction Value: $300M
      • $260M Up-Front Consideration ($160M cash / $100M stock)
      • $40M Deferred Cash Consideration
      • 9.7x Transaction Value/2020E EBITDA
      • As means to raise additional capital, EG7’s Board of Directors intends to carry out a new issue of shares in EG7 that amount in up to ~$190M through an accelerated bookbuilding procedure
      • Additionally, the Company has secured two debt facilities resulting in ~$110M in available capital
    • The transaction increases the size and profitability of EG7 with Daybreak’s loyal communities for existing IPs
    • Daybreak offers future upside through upcoming content releases, synergies across the group, and a strengthened team to identify and execute further M&A

Gaming platform Roblox acquires Imbellus assets ahead of IPO (link)

  • Imbellus, based in Los Angeles, develops simulation-based tests that measure human thought processes
  • The Company, which was valued at $57.5M in a 2018 private fundraising round, has talked publicly about its application as a substitute for standardized U.S. tests such as the SAT college entrance exam

EG7 acquires MechWarrior creator Piranha for $24M (link)

  • Canadian games studio Piranha has been acquired by EG7 for ~$24M, with consideration of ~$16M in cash and ~$8M in EG7 stock
  • Piranha will remain an independent entity within EG7
  • Piranha’s top game, MechWarrior Online, has generated ~$60M in revenue since its release in 2013

Bigger Games secures $6M in seed funding (link)

  • Istanbul-based mobile studio Bigger Games has raised $6M in seed funding
  • The round was led by Index Ventures with additional participation from Play Ventures, Unity founder David Helgason, and former King COO Stephane Kurgan
  • Bigger Games was founded by three former members of Peak Games and has achieved 75M downloads
  • The Company will use the proceeds for development of additional casual puzzle titles

Microsoft acquires esports events firm Smash.gg (link)

  • Microsoft has acquired esports events platform Smash.gg for an undisclosed amount
  • Smash.gg indicated that current operations will be unaffected and that the platform will benefit from additional resources and support as part of the Microsoft Content Services team

Others

Dauntless studio Phoenix Labs adds new studios, ramps up work on new games (link)

  • Dauntless developer Phoenix Labs keeps growing, as it announced the establishment of new studios in Montreal and Los Angeles
  • The Company added 50 employees during 2020 and expects to have over 250 employees by the end of 2021
  • André Roy, previously at Ubisoft, will lead the team at the Montreal studio and Omar Kendall, previously at Riot Games, will be product director at the Los Angeles studio, while Phoenix Lab’s Jing Wang will serve as general manager

Supercell cancels new casual match-three puzzler Hay Day Pop (link)

  • Supercell has cancelled the development of its previously soft-launched match-three puzzler Hay Day Pop saying that the game did “not meet the standards” of the Company
  • Hay Day Pop, a casual game, is different from the Company’s traditional portfolio of hardcore games

Krafton consolidates Pnix and Delusion Studio to form RisingWings (link)

  • South Korean games firm Krafton has consolidated Pnix Inc. and Delusion Studio into a new mobile-focused studio named RisingWings
  • The newly formed studio will focus on casual and midcore mobile titles while maintaining focus on previously developed titles including Golf King - World Tour and MiniGolf King

Sony teams with Epic to bring Kratos to Fortnite (link)

  • PlayStation has teamed up with Epic Games to bring its iconic character Kratos, from the God of War franchise, to Fortnite
  • The character can now be purchased as an in-game skin across all platforms, with additional Kratos-related content exclusive to PlayStation players

Gaming Public Multiples

GGP Gaming Weekly - Wk 49

GGP Gaming Weekly – Week 49

Highlights

CD Projekt FQ3 2020 Earnings Update (link)

  • CD Projekt traded down 1.3% over the two days following earnings release (Thursday & Friday), likely due to game delays, despite YoY growth and improvements in CD Projekt Red and GOG.com, their two reported operating segments
  • For FQ3 2020 specifically, the company reported $28M in revenues, representing 13% YoY growth, though falling short of consensus ($33M)
    • Gross Profit: $18M (64% margin, increase of 24% YoY)
    • EBITDA: $9.9M (35% margin, increase of 51% YoY)
    • $0.10 Diluted EPS (vs. consensus of $0.09)
  • Revenue growth was primarily attributable to licensing royalties associated with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, together with its expansions, Nintendo Switch game sales, and royalties related to digital sales in the framework of GWENT: The Witcher Card Game and Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales
  • Revenues from digital distribution of videogames licensed from external suppliers on GOG.com, CD Projekt’s digital distribution platform, grew 23% YoY compared to FQ3 2019

Epic Games launches Fortnite Crew subscription (link)

  • Epic Games will launch its new Fortnite Crew subscription for $12/month on December 2, 2020
  • With the subscription, players will get a Battle Pass for Season 5, 1,000 V-Bucks (~$8 worth of V-Bucks) each month to spend on items such as skins, and a Fortnite Crew Pack including an outfit bundle exclusive to subscribers
  • The Battle Pass will exist independently and can be made as a one-time purchase

Roblox partners with Ernest Cline on Ready Player Two event (link)

  • In partnership with Ready Player Two, Roblox is launching a themed treasure hunt with seven user-generated games based on the book inside the Roblox platform
  • Players who complete the treasure hunt will be awarded virtual goods designed specifically for the Ready Player Two event
  • The event will feature a virtual Q&A with author Ernest Cline and Roblox CEO David Baszucki, which will stream inside the event and contain clues for navigating the treasure hunt
  • It’s another example of Roblox’s plans to bring about the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected

ByteDance launches mobile games store and publishing arm (link)

  • ByteDance will hope to compete with fellow Chinese companies Tencent and NetEase
  • Last month, ByteDance launched Danjuan Games, a storefront dedicated to mobile titles
  • In November, the firm revealed a new publishing arm, dubbed Pixmain, which currently has five games in development
  • All five titles under Pixmain are expected to be available on mobile devices, with one also available on the Nintendo Switch

M&A and Capital Raising

AppsFlyer raises funding from Salesforce Ventures at $2B valuation (link)

  • Mobile measurement and marketing company AppsFlyer has raised an undisclosed amount in a new round of funding from Salesforce Ventures at a $2B valuation
  • The Company previously raised $210M at a $1.6B valuation in January 2020
  • The Company has ~1,000 employees globally and more than $200M in ARR
  • AppFlyer’s goal is to accurately measure mobile ad spending and become a “democratizer” of mobile marketing

Kahoot has acquired language learning mobile game maker Drops for up to $50M (link)

  • Norwegian learning platform company Kahoot has acquired Estonian language learning mobile game maker Drops for as much as $50M
  • Kahoot is paying $31M in cash up front, and an additional $19M based on undisclosed performance metrics from 2020 to 2022
  • Drops has seen an increase of 7.5M users in 2020 to a total of 25M users, and recently reached a revenue run rate of $10M
  • The Drops acquisition is part of Kahoot’s strategy to expand into new areas of learning, whether at school, work, or home
TinyBuild invests $3M in Secret Neighbor developer Hologryph (link)
  • The investment gives TinyBuild a majority stake in the studio, with the use of proceeds supporting soon-to-be-announced IP for the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S
  • TinyBuild is driving towards a value-based subscription models with the Hello Neighbor franchise available on Xbox Game Pass
Supercell invests $2.8M in 2Up, a co-op mobile game studio (link)
  • Supercell, developer of Clash Royale and Clash of Clans, is investing $2.8M in New Zealand game studio 2Up Games
  • 2Up Games was created to develop co-op games, which the Company believes will make the world a better place as people struggle with isolation during the pandemic
  • 2Up Games co-founder, Joe Raeburn, previously worked at Space Ape Games, maker of Samurai Siege, before Supercell acquired a majority stake of the company in May 2017

Others

Studio MDHR will delay Cuphead’s The Delicious Last Course DLC (link)
  • Studio MDHR announced that it has delayed the release of its Cuphead downloadable content, named The Delicious Last Course, to an unspecified date
  • The Studio said that the delay is due to challenges it has faced during the pandemic
  • While not specifying a new release date, the Studio said, “[The Delicious Last Course will be released when] we are confident it will delight the Cuphead community the way we feel it should”

Small Giant Games names Jose Saarniniemi as its new CEO (link)

  • Until now, Saarniniemi has been responsible for the finances and operational management of Small Giant Games
  • Saarniniemi initially joined the studio's management team in 2017 and previously worked for Rovio

Esports firm 100 Thieves teams up with Fortnite (link)

  • The partnership will see Epic Games add 100 Thieves’ esports facility, the Cash App Compound, to its Fortnite Creative’s Welcome Hub
  • Players will be able to explore the Compound and complete quests that are linked to members of 100 Thieves, which will unlock new areas of the facility to explore
  • This is another of Fortnite’s many collaborations this year including those with Travis Scott, BTS, and J Balvin

Gaming Public Multiples