Over the last 5–7 years — in my opinion — surprisingly little has changed in the mobile games industry in the West:
- Apple’s App Store and Google Play are still the leading platforms.
- Despite 100,000+ new games being released annually on these platforms, evergreen franchises like Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans are still top 10 grossing globally — seven years after launch. Who would have thought that in 2012?!
- The industry is in a constant state of consolidation, where the larger $1bn+ companies acquire a bunch of smaller / mid-sized game studios every year.
- Very few people enjoy mobile VR on a daily basis, resulting in very few mobile VR studios bragging about DAUs
- Many VCs continue to shy away from the industry as finding the stellar teams and studios that end up also creating a commercially successful game is like finding needles in a haystack.
Having spent six years at King, starting the company’s mobile games team and managing the team that launched Candy Crush Saga, the space remains a passion of mine. With so many gaming successes coming out of Europe (King, Supercell, Mojang/MineCraft, to name a few) and our friends at Small Giant Games recently being acquired Zynga at a valuation of $700m, this passion is shared by the EQT Ventures team. Small Giant Games strengthened our conviction that the fundamentals of mobile gaming continues to be extremely attractive for game studio founders and investors alike:
- Hundreds of millions of people worldwide play mobile games daily and the audience increases every year. There are few things more explosive in terms of global reach and engagement than successfully launching a great mobile game.
- Many players also pay and mobile revenues were predicted to grow 25.5% year on year in 2018 to hit $70.3 billion.
- When a studio strikes gold and creates an experience that develops into a hobby, like Small Giant Games with Empires & Puzzles, player loyalty and community builds explosive and incredible value in a very short amount of time.
- Mobile game studios are, in my mind, the definition of how small efficient teams can use technology to build real companies. In what other industries can a less than in which 50 person team build a $500m+ company in just a few years?
The tough part is to find the best team and back them at the right time….
Well, today I’m happy to say we’ve found another stellar mobile gaming team: EQT Ventures has led the €3.3m Series A in WarDucks, a mobile gaming studio headquartered in Dublin and founded by Nikki Lannen.
Formerly a senior member of Facebook’s gaming team, Nikki has put together a world-class, passionate team of game developers including industry veterans and game designer legends John Romero (Quake, Doom), Doug Kaufman (Civ II, Frontierville) and Lawrence Schick (Elder Scrolls Online, Dungeons & Dragons). Everyone at WarDucks is now heads-down in the creative (and, in my experience, incredibly rewarding!) part of the game development phase ready to develop a category-defining, location-based mobile augmented reality title. Sorry, I can’t reveal any more details on the game at the moment! ;).
AR location-based gaming is a rapidly growing genre of mobile gaming with Pokémon Go, for example, securing 60m+ MAUs and generating more than $2bn since its release in July 2016. What Nikki and the team are working on will take location-based AR gaming to the next level (pun intended!).
And how did we find WarDucks — what we hope to be a needle in the haystack? EQT Ventures’ proprietary AI-platform Motherbrain identified the company and decided we’d be a great match. We’re looking forward to working with Nikki and the WarDuck’s team on as they create a category-defining title and start the next phase of their journey!