Towards the end of May, the mobile game industry received news about 2 mega deals in 2 consecutive days. First it was Voodoo that announced a funding of $200M with an estimated valuation of over $500M. Then, the day after, Gram Games announced it’s acquisition by Zynga for a sum of $250M with additional sums to be paid against future results. Not surprisingly, these two companies share a similar philosophy and have been focused on games that monetize via ad revenue. Also, not surprisingly both, apply advanced measurement and optimization techniques for their ad monetization.
The new type of games that have been dominating the app stores since the beginning of 2017 is often called hyper casual games. The term first appeared in a series of articles written by Johannes Heinze and published in Pocketgamer. While the games have been visible on the app stores, the companies responsible for them often went undetected by press and analysts and remained an industry secret. One good example of these companies not getting detected is that both companies as well as Outfit7 (bought for $1B) were not included in AppAnnie’s top 52 publishers list.
Also, interesting to note is that these new direction of innovation is coming mainly from Europe. In addition to these 2 companies we can also add Ketchapp games, Outfit7, Tabtale as well many other smaller companies in Europe who are embracing ad driven models alongside a data driven approach and are dominating the hyper casual genres. From the US, companies such as Zynga starts to understand the potential and are compensating by acquiring such studios. Specifically for Zynga, the acquisition of Gram seems to be part of a strategy as the company also bought Harpen and paid Peak games $100M for their casual card game studio.
SOOMLA blog also picked up on the trend as early as 2016 when we noticed $300M going into companies that pioneered ad driven games. And then in March 2017 immediately after Harpen’s acquisition by Zynga, we identified Voodoo and Gram as strong potential for bigger deals in the future. Here are some additional companies who specialize in ad driven games that we recommend following.