Yager was founded in 1999 and is as of today one of most important games developers from Germany with around 140 employees, which makes it also one of the three biggest employers in the games industry in the capital area. Their international breakthrough came in 2012 with “Spec Ops: The Line”.
Tencent, the Chinese internet tycoon, already is invested a lot in games and holds stakes in some of the biggest companies: Riot Games (100%), best known for League of Legends, Supercell (84%), Fortnite developer Epic (48%) and 5% each of Ubisoft, Paradox and Activision Blizzard. In February 2020 they first invested in Yager. Now they stocked up for a majority stake.
GamesWirtschaft spoke to Timo Ullmann, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Yager about the deal:
“This decision was not made spontaneously but has grown over time. We decided to start with a minority stake first to see how it goes," the Yager co-founder said. "When it became clear that it made sense for both sides, we prepared the next step. And then, of course, the whole process takes time because there are a lot of formalities.”
“The first talks took place in 2017 or 2018 to find out how we could continue to stand on our own two feet after almost 20 years. In the beginning, we talked to some financial investors, but we quickly realized that we wanted a partner from the gaming industry. We were looking for someone who also had a strategic interest in our studio. We didn't want someone who was already planning to exit in the first five years.”
“It's very important for us to be transparent with our employees - not only about what's happening, but also why," said Timo Ullmann. "From an employee perspective, of course, this investment strengthens long-term job security. Meanwhile, the world's largest gaming company is committed not just to one game or project, but to Yager as a whole. Tencent has looked at both our history and our plans for the future. So this is an extremely positive signal for every single employee.”
Incidentally, Ullmann and his co-shareholders attach great importance to the statement that they are not planning an exit: "The founders will stay on board - that was our plan anyway. We still have some plans."
The main project, The Cycle, is facing a rebuild. Ullmann:
"During the Early Access phase last year, we received some interesting focus group feedback. And late last year, we decided to respond with some significant changes while keeping the DNA of the game. Over the past few months, we've been putting together all the good ingredients into a whole new recipe of The Cycle. An alpha test with larger groups of players has already started and the first results confirm our new direction. We also have a new game in the works, but it's still under disclosure."
The full interview can be found in German at GamesWirtschaft.