The red-hot M&A space in video games, coming off a record 2020, continued its momentum this week with two notable deals: Fortnite and Unreal Engine maker Epic Games bought the game studio behind pandemic hit Fall Guys, while mobile powerhouse Zynga
bought a company known for its cross-platform and console acumen.

In each case, executives sketched the deals as bigger than just acquiring some talent and a game franchise or two. In each case, the deal suggests where the acquirer is headed, and where they think the industry and entertainment as a whole are going too.

For Epic, the deal to buy London-based Tonic Games Group was a chance to, yes, acquire Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, a sweetly vicious battle royale game involving lumpy avatars waddling across obstacles and bumping off other competitors.

Fall Guys took off mid-pandemic with an audience not usually found on traditional battle royale titles. It represents a smart and widely accessible iteration on the every-man-for-himself game mechanic of battle royales, which Fortnite pioneered so successfully the past three years.

And like Fortnite, Fall Guys is a free title that makes money selling branded character skins from other beloved franchises, including Cuphead and Sonic the Hedgehog. More importantly, Tonic executives share Epic’s vision of a virtual future where entertainment, games, commerce, and much else all merge into a unified, widely accessible digital space.

 “It’s no secret that Epic is invested in building the Metaverse and Tonic Games shares this goal,” Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney said in a press release. “As Epic works to build this virtual future, we need great creative talent who know how to build powerful games, content and experiences.” 

Sweeney has been a foremost proponent of building the Metaverse, a concept lifted from science fiction classics by Neal Stephenson, William Gibson and Ernest Cline. Now he’s added a few more arrows to his Metaquiver as Epic shoots to create a grand digital future.

Zynga’s Cross-Platform Play

The acquiring sensibility behind Zynga’s deal for Echtra Games is considerably less grand, though it can be seen as an interim step toward that Metaverse vision.

Regardless, it’s no less telling about the mobile giant’s future direction. Zynga was one of the first big mobile publishers, profiting in the early days of Facebook’s run as a public company with addictive titles such as Farmville, and more recently with titles such as Words with Friends, Game of Thrones Casino Slots, and Harry Potter Puzzles & Spells.

Echtra has made cross-over games based on powerhouse franchises such as The Sims, Diablo and Torchlight, on platforms such as Nintendo’s Switch and next-gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft.

Zynga had already announced its first non-mobile title, a Switch version of Star Wars: Hunters, an action title scheduled to launch this year. But with Echtra’s talent in hand, the mobile giant can more confidently dive into making games beyond even the thriving mobile space.

In that regard, Zynga’s cross-platform push echoes Epic’s, especially with Fortnite, which is available on just about every game platform but iOS, where it’s suspended amid an ongoing court battle with Apple
over App Store fees.

Zynga COO Matt Bromberg told Barron’s that gamers will eventually expect to be able to play a game on whatever platform they want. Subscription game services are one expression of that trend, but individual titles need to play as widely as possible too.

“It’s going to seem antiquated several years from now that we thought about game experiences based on platforms,” Bromberg said.

Zynga’s move to cross-platform allows it to amortize investments in increasingly sophisticated mobile titles that can travel everywhere. Adding in cross-platform play is both fan-friendly and brand extending, both important in a world of choice.

Epic also will add Fall Guys to Epic’s game store and expand to other gaming platforms, significantly expanding the game’s reach beyond its PlayStaton roots.

Mobile’s New Power Enables Ambitious Games

And cross-platform mobile games are now more possible than ever, especially as devices add 5G networks and powerful graphics chips, allowing players there to credibly compete with users on game-first devices such as consoles.

Sony still profitably plays the platform-exclusive card, but that’s much less the case with Microsoft’s latest consoles and the subscription gaming service that sits atop both its consoles and PC offerings. Even Nintendo, long a bastion of exclusives, has loosened up a bit in recent years, allowing its franchise characters on mobile.

Apple, owner of the lucrative iOS mobile game platform, is going multiplatform in its own way, as it migrates its laptops and desktops to the same home-brew processors that run the iPhone and iPad.

Running games optimized for the mobile devices on Apple computers should be increasingly easy for developers in coming years, helping ease one of the Mac’s biggest limitations, a lack of compelling game experiences. Apple’s well regarded Arcade game-subscription service also generally features titles that can be played on its phones, tablets, computers and even on the Apple TV.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *