Keywords acquires Blindlight for up to $10M

keywordsKeywords Studios, the international technical services provider to the global video games industry, has acquired Blindlight LLC for a consideration of up to $10m, from the founder, Lev Chapelsky.

Blindlight achieved EBITDA of an average of $1m per annum over the three-year period to 31 December 2017. Under the terms of the acquisition Keywords is paying an initial $3.64m in cash and will issue 64,521 new ordinary shares in Keywords to the seller on the first anniversary of the acquisition which will then be subject to orderly market provisions for a further 12 months. Deferred consideration of up to $4.8m will be payable to the seller in cash depending on the performance of the business in the 12-month periods to the first and second anniversaries of the acquisition.

Founded in 2001 and based in Hollywood, California, Blindlight enjoys a leading position in the provision of Hollywood production services for the video games industry. The company works on behalf of game publishers and developers in procuring specialised talent and managing the entire production processes for the parts of games that benefit from Hollywood production resources. Blindlight’s service disciplines include voiceover production, celebrity acquisition and rights management, game writing, music, sound design and motion capture.

Andrew Day, CEO of Keywords Studios, said, “Keywords and Blindlight have got to know each other well over the past three years and we see good opportunities to leverage both businesses to offer a wider range of world leading services to our clients. We are delighted to welcome Lev and the rest of the team to the Keywords family. Following our recent acquisition of music services companies, Cord Worldwide and Laced, we see excellent opportunities for Blindlight to bring these services to Los Angeles, as well as providing access to further opportunities for our downstream production services of translation and localised voice over.”

Ireland, Dublin & USA, West Hollywood, CA

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EA acquires Gamefly’s cloud gaming technology & talent

Electronic ArtsElectronic Arts Inc. has acquired the cloud gaming technology assets and personnel of a wholly owned subsidiary of video game rental company GameFly, Inc. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Los Angeles-headquartered GameFly acquired Israel-based cloud gaming company Playcast Media Systems in 2015. The team will join EA’s functional teams, including the central technology organisation that is responsible for developing and operating the cutting-edge platform that powers EA’s leading games and services.

Cloud gaming opens up new possibilities to expand the reach of games by streaming high-quality entertainment to more players, on more devices, in more geographic regions of the world. With this acquisition, EA is adding to its strategic focus on advanced technologies that will give players more freedom to access the games they want, and enable the delivery of next-generation experiences at scale.

Ken Moss, Chief Technology Officer of Electronic Arts, said, “Cloud gaming is an exciting frontier that will help us to give even more players the ability to experience games on any device from anywhere. We’re thrilled to bring this talented team’s expertise into EA as we continue to innovate and expand the future of games and play.”

USA, Redwood City, CA & Israel, Caesarea

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Bigben Interactive acquires French games developer Cyanide for €20M

Bigben interactive logoBigben Interactive has acquired Cyanide, a French studio developing video games for €20 million, obtaining 100% of the company’s shares and voting rights. In the wake of Bigben’s increased stake in the capital of the Kylotonn Racing studio, this transaction will allow the Group, until now a publisher and distributor of video games, to fully integrate the development phase of games.

The transaction is to be paid for half in cash and for half through the issue of Bigben new shares in order to remunerate the transfer of Cyanide shares (dilution ranging from 3.5% to 4.0% of Bigben’s current share capital).

In order to avoid any further dilution, Bigben also purchased all potential capital instruments on the day of the transaction for an additional € 1.1 million in cash.

An earn-out capped and based on the net profit of Cyanide (and its subsidiaries) for FY 2018-19 (as at 31 March 2019) may be paid in September 2019. The closing of the transaction is scheduled to take place in June 2018.

Created in 2000 by 7 seasoned developers of the video game industry, Cyanide is one of the French reference studios recognized for the development of creative video games in numerous genres (strategy, narrative, shooting, management, sport, action and adventure) as well as for the quality of its productions.

Based in France (Paris and Bordeaux) and in Canada with 110 employees on its payroll, the studio expects €6.1 million sales and a €1.9 million net profit for financial year 2017/2018 (closing on 31 March 2018, pending audit results).

Alain Falc, chairman and CEO of Bigben, said, “This acquisition is a capital milestone in Bigben’s strategy as it greatly enhances our ability to create new games that meet our ambitions in the AA segment. Bigben is also proud to welcome to its Group the talents of Cyanide, one of the most creative French studios in the sector and we will be supporting their upswing towards new, even more ambitious projects.”

France, Lesquin & Nanterre

Bethesda acquires BattleCry Studios

BethesdaBethesda Softworks has acquired fellow ZeniMax Media subsidiary BattleCry Studios, now branded Bethesda Game Studios Austin. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

This growth will mark the second studio expansion since the founding of Bethesda’s in-house game studio in 2001 and the newest addition since Bethesda Game Studios Montreal in late 2015. The Texas-based studio will be led by Studio Director Doug Mellencamp. BattleCry Studios, which was formed in 2012 as a subsidiary of Zenimax Media, is responsible for the shelved free-to-play title of the same name, described as a “multiplayer online action combat game” by former executive producer and president Rich Vogel. The project was suspended in October 2015 in favour of other endeavours, and the studio went on to aid Id Software with post-release content for the multiplayer mode of DOOM.

Mellencamp said, “We’re excited to join Bethesda Game Studios and look forward to working together on some of the industry’s most exciting new games. Austin’s incredible game development scene and talent will also allow us to push our games further than fans have imagined.”

USA, Rockville, MD & Austin, TX

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Ubisoft acquires 1492 Studio

UbisoftVideo game publisher Ubisoft has acquired 1492 Studio, a game development studio specialised in the development of free-to-play episodic and interactive stories on mobile. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 2014 and based near Montpellier, France, the team at 1492 Studio created the successful mobile franchise “Is it Love?”, a series of interactive dramas in which a player’s choices shape their storyline, determine their discoveries and deepen their relationships in the game. The game is one of the top five grossing mobile simulation games in France and one of the top 20 in the U.S..

Jean-Michel Detoc, executive director of Ubisoft Mobile , said, “‘Is It Love?’ already is one of the leaders in episodic, narrative-driven mobile games, with a highly-engaged community of players. This deal is in keeping with our strategy of reaching new audiences through smart, targeted, and highly profitable acquisitions.”

France, Rennes & Vailhauquès

THQ Nordic AB acquires Koch Media GmbH

THQ NordicTHQ Nordic is to acquire 100 percent of the share capital in Koch Media. The total consideration amounts to EUR 121 million on a cash and debt free basis, equivalent to an equity value of EUR 91.5 million. EUR 82 million will be paid in cash and financed by current cash and bank balance. The remaining part of the consideration, amounting to EUR 9.5 million will be paid by consideration shares at a price per share which is based on the volume weighted average price of the company’s shares on Nasdaq First North during the twenty trade days preceding the signing date (14th February), i.e. SEK 95.44. Thus, the consideration shares will comprise 987,965 B shares.

Koch Media is a leading, independent producer and marketer of digital entertainment products in Europe and North America with studios in Germany, the UK, and the US, and offices in several Central and Northern European cities. Koch Media’s business consists of three business areas; i) Games, which are mainly published under the Deep Silver label with several AAA-intellectual property rights such as Saints Row, Dead Island and Metro; ii) Partner Publishing, which is the leading company in this business area in Europe and iii) Film, which is a business within movies for primarily the German- and Italian-speaking territories.

Koch Media generated net sales of approximately SEK 2,548 million and adjusted EBIT of approximately SEK 296 million for the period April – December 2017. The new group generated pro forma net sales and adjusted EBIT for the period April – December 2017 of SEK 2,933 million and SEK 505 million, respectively.

Lars Wingefors, CEO of THQ Nordic, said, “Koch Media has a long history of profitability despite losses incurred from some less successful game releases. THQ Nordic is convinced that the development studios of Deep Silver as part of THQ Nordic will successfully deliver at least four ongoing AAA game projects including Metro Exodus as well as the next Volition Studio AAA release and the next Dambuster Studio AAA release, together with a number of other game development and publishing titles.”

Austria, Vienna & Germany, Planegg

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Pokémon GO creator Niantic acquires AR startup Escher Reality

NianticThe company behind Pokémon GO, Niantic, has acquired augmented reality startup Escher Reality. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Escher Reality builds backend services for cross-platform mobile AR so users can interact with each other and objects in the environment. The startup offered functionality for shared experiences that was absent in both Google’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit. The startup’s investors include Uncork Capital, Founders Fund, Y Combinator, Liquid 2 Ventures, Webb Investment Network, iRobot Ventures, Presence Capital, Into Ventures and others.

Niantic CEO John Hanke said, “The addition of the Escher AR technology is incredibly exciting to us at Niantic as it significantly accelerates our work on persistent, shared AR as part of the Niantic real-world application platform. It’s our intention to make our cross-platform AR technology available more widely to developers later this year.”

Niantic is releasing its next big AR title Harry Potter Wizards Unite this year.

USA, San Francisco & Sunnyvale, CA