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Savvy buys Scopely, Sega buys Rovio, Microsoft buys Activision: The mobile market consolidation is in full swing

Industry Commentary
Image: Rovio

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.

April 3, 2023

Read the episode transcript here

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