It’s one of the worst kept secrets in the mobile gaming industry in 2017: Small Giant Games’ Empires & Puzzles is a fantastic game. Today, we’re celebrating the amazing success of the game by announcing a $41m investment round, partly to help the team to build new games and scale internationally and partly to provide them with some financial reward.
I first met Timo (CEO) in the summer of 2016, when he was showcasing an early version of Empires & Puzzles. After a couple of great casual mobile games like Oddwings Escape and Rope Racers, the team had made a bold decision to abandon the casual genre and instead plunge into the promised land of midcore. This isn’t an unusual journey to make for game studios on their search for a sustainable performance marketing loop. But, given my personal background developing match-3 games at King Digital, I was intrigued by the team’s ambition to mix this evergreen core game mechanic with a deeper metagame. Timo and I decided to stay in touch and keep the discussions going.
Some eight months and a bunch of catch-ups later, it became clearer to the EQT Ventures team that the team at Small Giant Games was onto something with Empires & Puzzles. The soft launch metrics were stellar, and improving cohort-over-cohort. As a result, EQT Ventures lead the $5.7m Series A the same day Empires & Puzzles launched globally. In the spirit of transparency, here’s what has happened since:
Now ~10 months after the Series A, EQT Ventures is happy to again back Timo, Otto, Markus and the rest of the team with a $41m investment, together with Creandum and Spintop Ventures.
This investment round is a bit unusual by tech start-up standards because Small Giant Games is a profitable company without the need for capital at the moment. Hence, a large portion of the investment is a secondary purchase from the Small Giant Games’ founders and team, rewarding them for five years of hard work. Why is this important? Many of the EQT Ventures team have been founders or operationally active in start-ups, and these journeys can be rollercoasters. When you see huge success — as Small Giant Games has done — it can be tempting to sell a company too early, instead of going for the big vision of building global winner. EQT Ventures wants to support founders on the “global winner” track and the Small Giant Games team has gained some financial reward on the way to building that global success story.
The EQT Ventures team looks forward to being a key part of the next step in the Small Giant Games journey, helping the team with a combination of funding to fuel growth and operational experience in creating, launching and monetizing mobile games for the masses. We think there’s a pretty damn good chance that Small Giant Games will continue its growth and pass the second chasm of building a true mobile game company — moving from a one-hit wonder to a portfolio of successful games. If Small Giant Games manages this transition, the team there will truly be the next “Nordic gaming phenomena”, following in the big footsteps of our friends at Supercell and King.