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10 biggest video game acquisitions of all time

From Activision Blizzard and Zynga to Bethesda and Playdemic

10 biggest video game acquisitions of all time

Mergers and acquisitions are frequent in the games industry, with companies aiming to expand their portfolio and reach across the ever-growing games market, and 2022 has already proven to be both record-breaking and with a lower amount of completed deals compared to 2021.

Large video game publishers will often acquire developers that have a history of producing successful titles in hope of creating more hits, while those outside of the industry are ever trying to get in on a slice of the action with the purchase of a studio being one of the easiest routes.

As a result, the profitability of the market is being noticed more than ever and the number of deals are only on the rise too.

Over $90 billion

2022 is already a record year for video game M&A, with announced deals passing a total gross transaction value of $95 billion – largely defined by the ushering of not one, but two of the largest video games acquisitions ever, overtaking the previous year.

Here we examine the top 10 biggest video game acquisitions of all time and why those acquisitions were made. 


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  • Number 10 - Glu Mobile

    Number 10 - Glu Mobile logo

    Acquirer: Electronic Arts
    Headquarters: California, US
    Date: April 30th, 2021
    Valuation: $2.4 billion

    Glu Mobile is a US mobile game developer and publisher based in San Francisco. The company is best known for titles such as Disney Sorcerer’s Arena, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood and Diner Dash Adventures. Glu Mobile’s total revenue reached $540 million in 2020.

    Electronic Arts acquired Glu Mobile for $2.4 billion in cash in April 2021 following Glu’s successful generation of $540 million through 2020.

    At the time, the deal consisted of more than 15 games and 100 million DAUs, with the purchase of Glu Mobile thought to be part of EA’s continued growth strategy to expand its reach to more players across the world.


  • Number 9 - Mojang Studios

    Number 9 - Mojang Studios logo

    Acquirer: Microsoft
    Headquarters: Stockholm, Sweden
    Date: September 15th, 2014
    Valuation: $2.5 billion

    Mojang Studios is a Swedish game developer behind sandbox builder Minecraft. Since its initial release in 2011, Minecraft has sold more than 200 million units worldwide making it one of the best-selling video games of all time. Several Minecraft spin-offs have been released including Minecraft: Story Mode and Minecraft Dungeons.

    Microsoft acquired Mojang in 2014 through Xbox Game studios for $2.5 billion, making the deal Microsoft’s second-largest acquisition to date.

    Acquiring Mojang allowed Microsoft access to users and a revenue stream spanning a myriad of non-Microsoft platforms.


  • Number 8 - Asmodee

    Number 8 - Asmodee logo

    Acquirer: Embracer Group
    Headquarters: Guyancourt, France
    Date: December 16th, 2021
    Valuation: $3.1 billion

    Founded in 1995, French digital board games publisher Asmodee is a world-leading distributor of digital and tabletop board games, including Catan, Star Wars: X-Wing, Ticket to Ride, and Jungle Speed.

    Since its founding, Asmodee has acquired 22 fully-owned subsidiaries and over 300 IPs and sold over 39 million games worldwide in 2020 alone.

    In December 2021, Swedish games holding company Embracer Group acquired Asmodee for $3.1 billion, marking the firm’s largest acquisition yet. Following the acquisition, Asmodee will continue to operate independently.

    Embracer Group made over 37 acquisitions in 2021, with CEO Lars Wingefors stating that the firm plans to make a "similar amount" throughout 2022. Embracer’s acquisition of Asmodee brings its total pool of acquired companies to over 100, with over 500 IPs and brands also in the mix.

     


  • Number 7 - Bungie

    Number 7 - Bungie logo

    Acquirer: Sony
    Headquarters: Washington, US
    Date: January 31st, 2022
    Valuation: $3.6 billion

    Founded in 1991, Bungie is a US video game developer best known as the creators of the Halo and Destiny franchises.

    When working on the development of Halo: Combat Evolved, Bungie was acquired by Microsoft with the aim of releasing the game as an exclusive first-person shooter for the Xbox.

    After the release of Halo 3 in 2007, Bungie split off from Microsoft and became an independent company, with Halo: Reach the last Halo game that the studio worked on.

    The studio went on to release Destiny in 2014, which was followed by its sequel Destiny 2 in 2017. Destiny 2 went free-to-play in October 2019 and Bungie has continued to provide additional paid content for the game since then.

    In January 2022, Sony revealed that it had entered an agreement to acquire Bungie for $3.6 billion with a focus on providing the firm with solid live-service expertise as well as an industry-leading game which operates this model.


  • Number 6 - Moonton

    Number 6 - Moonton logo

    Acquirer: ByteDance
    Headquarters: Shanghai, China
    Date: March 22nd, 2021
    Valuation: $4 billion

    Moonton is a Chinese mobile game developer and publisher founded in 2014. Based in Shanghai, the company is best known for Mobile Legends: Bang Bang which received two spin-offs, Mobile Legends: Adventure and Mobile Legends: Pocket.

    As of March 2021, Chinese internet technology giant ByteDance, through subsidiary Nuverse, acquired Moonton. The deal was valued at $4 billion although the amount was not disclosed by ByteDance.

    ByteDance acquired Moonton to extend the global offerings that Nuverse could provide to the mobile games industry.


  • Number 5 - King

    Number 5 - King logo

    Acquirer: Activision Blizzard
    Headquarters: St. Julian’s, Malta
    Date: February 23rd, 2016
    Valuation: $5.9 billion

    King is a social mobile game developer founded in Stockholm, Sweden, and is most recognisable for creating Candy Crush Saga, which received three sequels: Candy Crush Soda Saga, Candy Crush Jelly Saga and Candy Crush Friends Saga. 

    Activision Blizzard acquired King for $5.9 billion in February 2016, with $3.6 million from internal cash and the rest from a pre-existing credit agreement. After the deal was complete, King continued to operate as an independent company with no immediate changes made to upper management.

    Purchasing King gave Activision Blizzard a stronger foothold in the mobile games market. At the time, it was speculated that Activision overpaid for King due to declining financials. However, since then, King has reached record revenue numbers and continues to bring in large player spending every year. 


  • Number 4 - Bethesda Softworks (ZeniMax Media)

    Number 4 - Bethesda Softworks (ZeniMax Media) logo

    Acquirer: Microsoft
    Headquarters: Maryland, US
    Date: September 21st, 2020
    Valuation: $7.5 billion

    ZeniMax Media is a US video game holding firm best known as the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, developers of The Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises.

    Bethesda primarily develops titles for consoles and PC but has found some success with mobile titles, such as The Elder Scrolls: Blades and Fallout Shelter.

    Microsoft acquired ZeniMax media for $7.5 billion cash in September 2020, a move that was approved by both the European Commission and the United States Securities and Exchanges Commission in March 2021.

    The acquisition will see future titles from Bethesda available through Xbox Game Pass across supporting platforms - including Microsoft’s streaming platform, XCloud.


  • Number 3 - Supercell

    Number 3 - Supercell logo

    Acquirer: Tencent
    Headquarters: Helsinki, Finland
    Date: June 21st, 2016
    Valuation: $10.2 billion

    Supercell is a Finnish mobile games developer founded in 2010 and based in Helsinki. The studio is best known for Clash of Clans, Hay Day and Clash Royale. Supercell maintains additional offices in Tokyo, Shanghai, San Francisco and Seoul.

    In June 2016, a Tencent-fronted consortium acquired an 81.4 per cent stake in Supercell for $10.2 billion. In October 2019, Tencent increased its share from 50 per cent to 51.2 per cent for $40 million, acquiring an additional 44,000 shares.

    Supercell has four games that have each surpassed $1 billion in lifetime gross revenue: Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, Hay Day and Brawl Stars.

    The move showed signs of further amalgamation of the games market by Tencent who now own stakes in several of the highest-grossing games studios, such as Epic Games, Sumo Digital and Ubisoft.


  • Number 2 - Zynga

    Number 2 - Zynga logo

    Acquirer: Take-Two
    Headquarters: California, USA
    Completion date: March 23 2022
    Valuation: $12.7 billion

    American social games outfit Zynga is a leader in the mobile games space with titles such as FarmVille, Zynga Poker, and Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells.

    After its founding in 2007, Zynga quickly became a household name with its titles on Facebook. As the mobile games industry grew, Zynga quickly adapted its portfolio and brought its titles to iOS and Android devices, which led to the rapid expansion of the firm.

    At the start of 2022, Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive acquired Zynga for $12.7 billion. Paying a premium of 64 per cent per share, Take-Two highlighted the value of the mobile games industry in its attempt to gain access to the largest player base in the world and the expertise to successfully translate its leading IP to mobile.

    Zynga is no stranger to acquisitions itself, such as the acquisition of UK-based mobile games developer NaturalMotion for $527 million in 2014, or the more recently acquired Starlark for $525 million.

    As part of the acquisition, Zynga will head Take-Two’s mobile operations, with the latter hoping the mobile giant’s expertise will pivot its share in the mobile market.


  • Number 1 - Activision Blizzard

    Number 1 - Activision Blizzard logo

    Acquirer: Microsoft
    Headquarters: California, USA
    Date: January 18th, 2022
    Valuation: $68.7 billion

    American video game holding comapny Activision Blizzard was first founded in 2008, following a merger between Activision and Vivendi Games. 

    Since the merger, Activision Blizzard has continued to expand its portfolio of colossal franchises, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and more.

    As seen on this list as the fifth largest acquisition of all time, Activision Blizzard acquired King in 2016, providing the firm with a strong grasp of the mobile games industry with titles such as Candy Crush Saga and its subsequent follow up games.

    Just as the dust was beginning to settle from the prior acquisition on the list, Microsoft revealed that it had entered an agreement to acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, making it the largest video games acquisition of all time. The tech giant paid a premium of 69 per cent per share over the firm's closing price the day before.

    In a similar move to Take-Two's acquisition of Zynga, Microsoft are hoping that through its acquistion of Activision Blizzard it will be able to expand its reach into "mobile-first" communities, an area that it has previously failed to successfully tap into.

    The past decade has seen Microsoft make key acquisitions, such as Mojang Studios and ZeniMax Media (both on this list), but its purchase of Activision Blizzard shadows all other video game acquisitions to date. Whether this has set a precedent for larger games industry acquisitions in the future, only time can tell.


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