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Last week, Istanbul-based Bigger Games announced its $6 million raise, led by Index Ventures. The highly-competed casual puzzle genre - which represents roughly 10 per cent of the mobile gaming market - continues to attract venture capital, as Bigger Games joins the race for the next big thing.
The casual puzzle market is certainly big and juicy at over $6 billion yearly revenues in in-app-purchases only (note: source numbers have the platform share deducted). Unsurprisingly, it's also the most fiercely competed area within mobile, dominated by the big incumbents Playrix (Gardenscapes), King (Candy Crush Saga), Peak (Toon Blast), and AppLovin (Matchington Mansion).
New entrants to the casual puzzle market will need to best not only the incumbent corporations, but also the several other startups aiming for the same goal. The core team of Bigger Games is from Peak, as is the core team of the fellow Istanbul company Dream Games. The competition does not stop at Turkish companies though. In fact, there's a clear pattern of ex-corporate puzzle veterans going for their own thing and raising sizable early-stage money for it:
- Trailmix raised $4.2 million from Supercell in 2018. Trailmix's core team is ex-King.
- Redemption Games raised $5 million from Supercell in 2018 and an undisclosed sum in strategic investment from AppLovin this year. The team has key members from Jam City (Cookie Jam).
- Luau Games raised $3.8 million from Supercell in 2019. Luau's core team is ex-King.
- Dream Games raised $7.5 million in 2019. The round was led by Makers Fund. Similarly to Bigger, Dream Games’ core team is ex-Peak
To fully realise the upside in these investments, these five companies will need to deliver top-notch games that rival the Candy Crushes and Toon Blasts of this world. That said, getting a high-quality game out of the door might not be enough.
In order to scale up the user count and revenue for a casual puzzle game one needs both the kick-ass product and the well-oiled marketing machine that churns out ad creative fast and runs direct response campaigns at scale. As their competition is prepared to wait for 12+ months to get their money back from their marketing investment (thus pushing up advertising prices), companies competing in this genre need sizable amounts of capital to grow.
All in all, despite high barriers to scale, new competition in a classic genre such as casual puzzle is certainly welcome; any of these teams could be set to upset the bigwigs of puzzle games. Based on the impressive background of these teams, I for one look forward to the games they will put out. (written by Miikka Ahonen)