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From Wooga to Innplay Labs: Inside Playtika’s shopping spree

The Israeli gaming giant has made a number of high-profile acquisitions. Here's the list from start to finish
From Wooga to Innplay Labs: Inside Playtika’s shopping spree
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Playtika has been at the forefront of the M&A space since 2018, when it created a $400 million investment arm as part of its ongoing aims to corner the mobile gaming market. In that time, the company has gone from strength to strength, albeit with some recent turbulence, and helped to make Israel one of mobile gaming’s most exciting markets.

In total, Israel’s gaming industry was worth $9 billion as of September 2022, with social and casual titles in particular enjoying a competitive edge due to the data analytics industries and expertise within the country, and as a result 74% of Israel’s mobile gaming workforce specialises in these genres, with casual titles accounting for 54.9% of the company’s revenue as of November.

Playtika was previously identified as Israel’s most successful gaming company, and it’s easy to see why - with a slate of successful first party IP’s such as June’s Journey and Bingo Blitz, as well as the acquisition of some of mobile gaming’s most exciting developers, the company has put itself at an advantageous position not just in Israel, but in the mobile gaming ecosystem at large.

However, we would be remiss to omit some of the company’s struggles over the past 12 months. From the closure of its Helsinki studio Seriously in October 2022 to the layoffs of over 600 employees to the high-profile breakdown of acquisition talks with a major Finnish studio (more on them later), Playtika has faced its fair share of turbulence, eventually halting the development of new games and leading to claims that one of the leading acquirers in the space could itself be the target of an acquisition.

However, things seem to be looking up in recent months, with a small but significant boost to its investment rating from “Underperform” to “Neutral”. Playtika, it seems, was down but not out, and it’s since resumed its acquisition strategy.

So where have Playtika been focusing their energy? Well…

#1: December 2018: Wooga

December 2018: Wooga

December 2018 saw Playtika close its acquisition of German developer Wooga, after a self-admitted "rough two years" for its new subsidiary.

The price of the purchase wasn't disclosed, but it did signal a significant move forward in the casual gaming space, with the deal meaning over half it's portfolio was made up of games in the genre.

“We see great opportunities for Playtika in the casual games genre and our acquisition of Wooga firmly positions us for this next phase of our evolution,” said Playtika CEO Robert Antokol.

“Playtika’s strengths in implementing live operations, advanced AI and performance marketing at-scale will serve as a global springboard for Wooga’s creativity in ideating and developing winning story-led titles.

“Together we’ll bring audiences worldwide a whole new level of game experiences that never cease to captivate and amaze. The Wooga team is driven and passionate, has strong leadership and we’re thrilled to have them join the Playtika family.”

#2: January 2019: Supertreat

January 2019: Supertreat

Just a month following the acquisition of Wooga, Playtika closed another European acquisition - this time of Austrian developer Supertreat, best known for its hit game Solitaire Grand Harvest, which it hoped to make "the number one solitaire game in the market."

“The success of Solitaire Grand Harvest gave us the opportunity and flexibility to select our ideal partner to grow the game even further and we are thrilled to have chosen Playtika,” said Supertreat CEO Christian Baumgartner.

“They’ve proven multiple times that they know how to scale a game post-acquisition and we expect to see similar success for Solitaire Grand Harvest.”

#3: August 2019: Seriously

August 2019: Seriously

Playtika made yet another European acquisition in Augut 2019, this time of Helsinki-based Best Fiends developer Seriously. This acquisition crucially sae the company expand its interests into the USA, thanks to Seriously's established presence in LA.

“Best Fiends is not only a best-in-class IP and game, it is also managed by a best-in-class team," said Playtika CEO Robert Antokol. "Andrew Stalbow and Petri Jarvilehto have built an incredible company that has both the long-term vision for its IP and a narrow focus on driving performance in its core games franchise.

“This acquisition makes us one step closer to becoming the largest Western-facing mobile games company, and I am eager for Andrew, Petri and the Seriously team to play an important role in getting us there.”

Unfortunately, Playtika shuttered Seriously in October 2022 as part of a reevaluation of its business operations. 

#4: September 2021: Reworks

September 2021: Reworks

Playtika returned to the acquisition game after a two year period with the purchase of 80% of Helsinki-based developer Reworks, best known for its design game Redecor. The purchase came at a hefty cost of $400 million, with a a further acquisition of the remaining 20% for up to $200 million in 2022, or as low as $1, depending on the company's EBITDA for the year.

"As the fragmented and historically offline market of home décor continues to expand onto digital channels, Reworks offers us a compelling opportunity to establish a leading presence in a category that clearly commands a lot of interest and will potentially serve as a foundation to enter further areas beyond traditional gaming," said Playtika co-founder, CEO, and chairman Robert Antokol.

#5: January-March 2023: Rovio

January-March 2023: Rovio

Despite Playtika's history of acquisitions, it's somewhat ironic that the company's most talked about deal is one it failed to close: Rovio, creator of one of the world's biggest mobile game franchises, Angry Birds, were the next target for Playtika, with a massive $737.5 million on the table.

Rovio had long been an attractive acquisition for Playtika, with CEO Robert Antokol commenting “We firmly believe the combination of Rovio’s renowned IP and scale of its user base, together with our best-in-class monetisation and game operations capabilities, will create tremendous value for our shareholders.”

Unfortunately for Playtika, talks eventally collapsed with no deal in sight, leaving the door open for Sega to swoop in and acquire Rovio for themselves.

#6: August 2023 - Youda Games

August 2023 - Youda Games

August 2023 saw Playtika acquire Azerion's Youda Games portfolio, including social card game Governor of Poker 3, for an upfront fee of $89.1 million, with an additional earnout based on performance bringing the potential price up to $165 million.

“The acquisition of Youda Games’ card game portfolio, with its strong IP, is in line with Playtika’s strategic incremental growth approach of leveraging our unrivalled LiveOps expertise and proprietary technology stack to optimise and scale games, strengthening our market position,” said Playtika president and CFO Craig Abrahams.

“We believe this acquisition will be accretive to our financial performance and is part of our strategy to acquire proven franchises where we can add value.”

#7: September 2023 - Innplay Labs

September 2023 - Innplay Labs

Just days ago on September 29 Playtika announced and subsequently closed its latest acquisition - Animals and Coins developer Innplay Labs for an upfront fee of $80 million, and a total purchase price of up to $300 million. The purchase increased Playtika's capabilities in the luck battle genre, as well as demonstrating Playtika's commitment to the strategic expansion of its gaming portfolio.

“Since our founding and through our track record of optimising high-growth potential IP, like Animals & Coins, Playtika has built a reputation for completing strategic acquisitions that deliver value to shareholders,” said Playtika president and chief financial officer Craig Abrahams. “This acquisition of Innplay Labs strengthens our position as a mobile games leader and is a testament to our commitment to investing in Israel as a global technology and innovation hub.”