Only a few weeks after Savvy Games Group announced its acquisition of the mobile game publisher Scopely, Sega followed with the surprise announcement of its intention to acquire Rovio, best known for creating the Angry Birds games.
But what does Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund want with Scopely? Will Sega’s acquisition of Rovio mean Sonic The Hedgehog ends up in Angry Birds? Or will Sega use Rovio’s strength in the market to pursue mobile strategies for its wider IP? And let’s not forget Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard – a company raking in half of its revenue from mobile games such as Candy Crush Saga and Honor of Kings.
It looks like the mobile market consolidation is in full swing. We explore the reason so many companies are doubling down on mobile, why 45% of gamers want more games based on their favourite films and TV shows, as well as our favourite collaborations and deals from last month below.
Okay, so maybe it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Savvy Games Group, wholly owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), has scooped up the mobile video game developer and publisher, Scopely for $4.9 billion.
Since its incorporation in 2021, Savvy has committed to investing $38 billion into esports ventures (VSPO) and video game companies (Tencent, Activision Blizzard, Nintendo, Capcom) as it looks to diversify its investment portfolio outside of oil and make Saudi Arabia a global destination for gaming and esports.
While Scopely’s name might not be as recognisable to gamers as the companies mentioned above, it’s a major player in the mobile gaming market where its IP-based games such as WWE Champions, Marvel Strikeforce, Star Trek Fleet Command, The Walking Dead Road to Survival and Scrabble Go generated over one million downloads and $47 million in revenue in March 2023.
The vast majority of Scopely’s portfolio is IP-based games, with the recent addition of Monopoly Go marking the company’s third collaboration with Hasbro. Even its titles that aren’t based on existing IP, such as the royale obstacle game Stumble Guys (basically Scopely’s version of Fall Guys), are collaborating with popular entertainment properties such as Hot Wheels and Rabbids in live events, offering players a selection of themed maps, character skins and items.
As Naavik points out, Scopely’s revenues declined from April 2022–23, but this is indicative of a wider trend as the mobile market returns to normality after record-breaking years during the COVID pandemic. Savvy Games Group’s acquisition of Scopely means it now has a profitable portfolio of mobile games and can tap into strong relationships with licensors. Still, it isn’t the only big name making moves in the mobile market…
Sega’s $776 million acquisition of Rovio, best known for the Angry Birds games, surprised many in the industry. The success of the first Angry Birds game led to a globally recognised IP spinning out into multiple games, merchandise, TV shows and even two films, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sega IP such as Sonic The Hedgehog cross over into the world of Angry Birds, following in the footsteps of Angry Birds Star Wars. The two companies previously collaborated in an Angry Birds crossover – 2013’s Sonic Dash event.
More importantly, Rovio’s extensive knowledge of the mobile market will be massively beneficial to Sega as it focuses its efforts on generating more revenue from its mobile portfolio. Sega has been releasing mobile games since 2002 and now has 139 mobile games that have amassed over one billion downloads, according to data from App Magic. While that might sound impressive, Sega’s mobile efforts haven’t been that successful.
One billion downloads may sound like a lot, but the vast majority of Sega’s mobile portfolio is premium games, namely for old franchises such as Sonic The Hedgehog and Streets of Rage that don’t have in-app purchases. Most recently, most of Sega’s mobile revenue has been generated by a single game – the rhythm game Project Sekai Colorful Stage, which is incredibly popular in Japan.
With mobile games now generating more than triple the revenue of PC and console games across the market, Sega’s acquisition of Rovio could provide the company with an opportunity to push its IP into a myriad of potential crossovers while boosting the profitability and visibility of the Angry Birds IP through its own mobile games.
These two most recent acquisitions, not to mention Microsoft’s pending acquisition of Activision Blizzard and Epic’s recent purchase of Aquiris, means that many of the top-performing mobile games will be owned by just a handful of companies. With Savvy Games Group still having plenty of leftover change from the Scopely acquisition and companies such as Nintendo and PlayStation pushing harder on mobile strategies, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the mobile market consolidate even further in the future.
Deloitte has released its 2023 Digital Media Trends report, revealing that younger generations are spending more time socialising in video games and craving more popular IP integration.
The key findings from the report include:
These findings should be a wake-up call for licensors in various markets. Why? Because they drive home the importance of cross-media licensing strategies and having a strong presence in video game worlds.
Basically, film and TV properties continue to go from strength to strength in the gaming industry, with some publishers such as East Side Games Group specializing in mobile adaptions of film and TV properties – a trend that dates back to the late ‘70s with some of the earliest licensed games such as Fonz and Raiders of the Lost Ark spinning out of Happy Days and Indiana Jones. Our definitive guide for licensing IP into games covers this in detail, and Newzoo’s 2022 report on IP-based mobile games confirms the value of developers using well-known IP for user acquisition campaigns.
If you’re considering pushing your IP into the video game world for a new game, it’s important to find the right partner. Prioritize studios that live and breathe your IP as much as you do, as their experience and knowledge of your IP will translate into an authentic in-game experience that players and brand loyalists are bound to love. You can find plenty of tips on the key things you need to consider when licensing your IP into games in this Gamesindustry.biz piece featuring our co-founder Rachit Moti.
But let’s get into the meat of the report and what else it means for IP holders. First, with 40% of gamers spending more time socialising in video games than in the real world, it’s no surprise that companies such as Vans, Sanrio, Hot Wheels, Gucci, Nike, Givenchy and Tommy Hilfiger are shifting their focus from OOH campaigns into building branded experiences in the likes of Roblox and Fortnite.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that metaverse experiences such as these are the only way to get your brand and IP in front of millions. The mobile market has plenty of opportunities, too, given its reliance on limited-time events (LiveOps), with many games integrating IP to lower their user acquisition costs and encourage organic downloads. Stumble Guys’ recent collaborations with Hot Wheels and Rabbids are a great example of this.
Second, regardless of the in-game worlds that IP-holders are looking to establish a presence in, player expression is usually a vital part of engagement and monetization. This is reflected by the finding that a third of gamers say they feel better about their self-image when playing video games, with many of them decorating their characters and avatars with clothing, items and accessories that reflect their personalities.
Aligning your IP with in-game cosmetic items in an era where digital fashion is fast becoming the norm is a great way of building brand presence and profitability.
Third, this form of expression is something that those working in the music industry should also keep a close eye on. Virtual concerts are growing in popularity with artists including Travis Scott, Lil Nas X, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Blackpink, Royal Blood and many more performing in Fortnite, Roblox, PUBG: Mobile and Garena Free Fire. And with nearly half of gamers discovering new music through video games, the opportunity for the music industry is growing, whether from a sync perspective or to generate sales for virtual merchandise.
Reports such as these continue to demonstrate the importance of licensors having strategies in place for video games and being aware of the latest video game trends to stay on top of what’s happening in the space. Speaking of trends, you can find some of our favourite collaborations and deals from last month below.
Here are some of our other favourite brand collaborations, licensing deals and partnerships from the last month.
And in other news…