Berlin is one of the hot spots in Germany when it comes to game development studios. Start-ups are popping up regularly, you can find many independent studios and some of the global players have offices in the capital. Over the last years, big games companies have made investments in Berlin or acquired some of the successful studios.
231 Play, Wooga, Yager, DECA Games and Kolibri – all prominent names in the games industry, made in Berlin. With their success in the market, they all came into the focus of international players. And we do not just mean the players of their games, we are talking about international companies that were looking for investment cases to broaden their portfolio. Big business, grown from independent studios in Berlin.
At the end of 2018, Playtika, a digital entertainment company from Israel, acquired the Berlin-based mobile studio Wooga for around 200 million USD. Wooga, known for games like “June´s Journey”, “Diamond Dash” or “Bubble Island” was still led by founder and CEO Jens Begemann after the acquisition. Wooga has faced some small crises in the years before the takeover, but Begemann and his team turned the ship around and after the acquisition by Playtika, the company used the potential of the studio and brought the business to a higher level. After the positive turnover Begemann left Wooga in April 2020. Right now, Wooga employs around 200 people, which makes the company one of the biggest employers in the games industry in Germany.
In spring 2019, the mobile studio 231 Games (best known for “Game Doctors” and “Zombie Smash”) was acquired by Jam City, which is bringing many popular mobile games to players all over the globe. It was not only an investment in the studio, but also an investment in the region to brand the studio as “Jam City Germany”. The founders of 231 Play, Matthias and Thomas Hoechsmann, joined Jam City and continued to manage development and operations from the company’s Berlin studio.
Yager, one of Berlin’s earliest game developers with more than 20 years in the business, known for titles such as “Dreadnought”, “The Cycle” or “Spec Ops: The Line”, received investments by one of the biggest global players: Tencent. The Chinese company has its holdings in games like “League of Legends”, “PUBG mobile” and “Fortnite”, which makes it one of the major companies in gaming. For Yager, Tencent invested in a minority holding at the beginning of 2020 - how much exactly was not officially stated by the companies. Yager will invest the money in their publishing activities for “The Cycle” and future productions. At the moment, “The Cycle” is exclusively published via the Epic Games Store by Epic Games, a company, in which Tencent holds almost 49%.
Almost at the same time, Ubisoft acquired a majority stake in Kolibri Games, a Berlin-based mobile games developer, known for their very successful games “Idle Miner Tycoon” and “Idle Factory Tycoon”. Ubisoft jumped in with 75% holdings and the chance to stock up to 100% in the next four years. For Ubisoft, the biggest European videogame company, the investment was worth more than 115 million Euro for the 75% and with Kolibri Games they have acquired one of Germany’s most profitable gaming companies, with a rate of growth that is rocketing through the sky.
Just in August 2020, Embracer Group AB, the parent company of THQ Nordic, acquired DECA Games. DECA Games, founded in 2016 in Berlin by Ken Go, is specialized in using older IPs and giving them new life to make the games last longer. They see games as a service and are completely focused on live operations. Embracer adds a strong team for building a growing mobile and free-to-play business to their group. Ken Go will remain CEO and run DECA as an independent entity within the Embracer Group for the upcoming years.
With all these investments, those companies are strengthening the industry in Berlin and sending a strong signal to all the independent and start-up gaming companies in the capital region: The world is watching you.