Interview

Jam City’s Josh Yguado on why we're 'nowhere near peak mobile gaming'

Josh Yguado talks Ludia deal and the future of the mobile games industry

Jam City’s Josh Yguado on why we're 'nowhere near peak mobile gaming'

It's near-impossible to go a week without a company either being acquired, sold or split apart in the games industry.

The conversation and decision-making that leads to an acquisition being made is one that doesn't take place simply overnight.

It's one that requires numerous pieces to be placed accordingly before the final go-ahead can be made. All that's normally shared will be the announcement, none of the inner workings.

So, to shed a little light on what goes on behind the scenes, PocketGamer.biz will be speaking to a variety of companies under our semi-regular Done Deal series, which will look into strategy, long-term goals and the ongoing hurdles of making an acquisition.

This time, we caught up with Jam City co-founder, COO and president Josh Yguado about the company's recent acquisition of Ludia and the direction of the mobile games industry within the coming years.

PocketGamer.biz: To start with, can you explain where the idea for the acquisition came from?

Josh Yguado: We have known Ludia’s management team and admired their games for many years.

During our conversations, it was very clear that our goals and capabilities were aligned, and it felt like the right time to finally combine forces to become one of the largest and most successful entertainment-oriented mobile game developers and publishers in the world.

What were the main goals of this acquisition and how long did the acquisition take to go through?

The entire deal took us approximately 10 months to complete.

Ludia has one of the most successful augmented reality and location-based games in the world with Jurassic World Alive. They are the consummate gaming Hollywood Studio, with an award-winning portfolio of hit mobile games including not only the Jurassic World franchise, but also How to Train your Dragons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and several upcoming DC and Disney titles.

We plan to continue to acquire great studios across the globe
Josh Yguado

Our goal was to supercharge Ludia’s amazing capability of building deep, rich, immersive games, with Jam City’s comprehensive technology platform and data science-driven user acquisition and live game operations.

In combination with our funding raise, the acquisition strengthens our overall position in the market. We plan to continue to acquire great studios across the globe, grow our game portfolio and provide investment in our studios to develop and publish entertainment experiences that rival Hollywood blockbusters.

How has this acquisition benefitted your company going forward? Perhaps new hires, resources or significant growth?

In addition to becoming one of the largest and most successful entertainment companies in the mobile gaming industry, we are pairing incredibly experienced and passionate talent from both organisations to propel us forward.

We want to create products that fit into people’s lives and that they find delightful. This includes the creation of AR and mixed reality games, social-focused games, and games across multiple genres.

Ludia has a powerful portfolio and pipeline of games. We are integrating Ludia’s current titles such as Jurassic World Alive, Lovelink and Dragons: Rise of Berk into our technology and data analytics platform to help improve each player's experience and create enduring franchises for their core entertainment IP.

And we are working together to maximise the potential impact of Ludia’s new games in development, including the recently announced DC Heroes & Villains and more to come.

Did you encounter any major hurdles during the process and if so, how were they addressed?

This is a great time to be raising money and funding big, ambitious mobile game initiatives. We considered several paths to raise growth capital this year. Initially, our approach for the Ludia acquisition was to partner up with a SPAC, and for Jam City to go public and raise money through that transaction.

We pivoted and instead decided to raise capital for the acquisition privately and as a result, we acquired Ludia without the cost or delay of going public through the SPAC, and successfully closed on a $350 million dollar private raise last month.

We have a reputation for efficiently and effectively integrating new teams into Jam City
Josh Yguado

We have a reputation for efficiently and effectively integrating new teams into Jam City. For example, over the past three years, we successfully added the Rainbow Star studio in Burbank, and completed acquisitions of TinyCo, Uken Games in Toronto, and 231Play.

Each of those studios is now fully integrated into the Jam City global studio network and we’ve significantly increased the performance of each one.

We are very pleased with our M&A progress to date and are looking forward to introducing new games and new entertainment experiences to our players.

How has the company's strategy changed under new ownership?

Our main goal is to preserve and maintain what makes Ludia so special as a creative studio - building incredible immersive experiences for players.

The Ludia teams will not see major changes to the way they develop games and operate as a company. The majority of changes will be on the back-end where Jam City’s technology platform and central user acquisition and live game operations capabilities will help drive growth and improve player experience for all games in our expanding portfolio.

We plan to continue to accelerate investment into games and studios at the forefront of mobile gaming’s future. In particular, Ludia’s leadership in AR and location-based games will provide an opportunity for us to grow our expertise in this area.

The acquisition of Ludia also gives Jam City the opportunity to further extend our footprint of major Hollywood game partnerships and titles.

Do you think acquisitions in the mobile space will continue at the current rate?

We believe that we are nowhere near peak mobile gaming. The industry continues to be the fastest-growing entertainment sector in the world. All industry metrics continue to showcase growth, and continued growth is supported by heavy investments and acquisitions across the sector.

The Western video game industry has seen record M&A investments over the first half of 2021 of over $25 billion.

Globally, people are spending more and more time playing games. Mobile gaming is currently three times the size of console gaming and I believe that we are just at the start. Mobile games are getting really good, but they are nowhere near fulfilling their full potential.

We believe that we are nowhere near peak mobile gaming
Josh Yguado

As mobile handsets advance and data delivery improve, we’ll see better and better mobile products that will power the industry to new heights.

Was there anything that has happened since the acquisition that you would change?

The integration of Ludia into Jam City has proceeded more seamlessly than we imagined. Our teams are already working together brilliantly, and we look forward to achieving great things together.

Combined, we have a strengthened mobile game portfolio that includes new IP and capabilities, including AR and location-based development expertise. We have an eye towards M&A using proceeds from the recent raise to acquire more great studios from across the globe and continue on our aggressive growth path.

Are mergers and acquisitions a good thing for the games industry as a whole?

As industries mature, there will be inevitable consolidation. When we look at the top entertainment sectors, they’ve all consolidated down to the top 5-10 players over time (the console gaming, TV and film industries are good examples of this). We believe the mobile gaming industry is still at a very early stage and remains relatively fragmented with opportunities for more synergies and partnerships.

We also believe that as the mobile gaming industry matures, there will be ample room for both large-scale developers, and smaller, scrappier start-ups. It’s important that every creative industry has enough flexibility (and a sufficiently low barrier-to-entry) to allow for the creation and entry of fresh new ideas.

As industries mature, there will be inevitable consolidation
Josh Yguado

On the other hand, as production values and development costs for top tier mobile games increase over time, it becomes imperative that large-scale developers have the resources to invest in the creation of blockbuster mobile game titles. We think that there is room for both and that we are just at the beginning of the golden age of mobile gaming.

What advice would you give to companies that are either looking to make an acquisition, or be acquired?

It all starts with the product. Don’t build for what you think an acquirer may want - build for what you love yourself, and what you believe that game fans need.

Also, people and talent are very important - when Jam City is looking to make an acquisition, we look for talent with the ability and hunger to grow. A key characteristic we look for across all our teams is a sense of curiosity – everyone is trying to learn, improve and explore every day, regardless of their role within the company.

We’re always looking for great talented people, teams, and studios that have cultivated fun and magic in their game, but may benefit from more back-end support and UA capabilities. With these pieces in place, our goal is to create games that become an enduring part of players' lives and we look for partners who are looking to do the same, for the long term.

Find out more about Jam City via its website


News Editor

Aaron is the News Editor at PG.biz with a lifelong interest for the games industry and a penchant for mobile rhythm games.

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