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Who were 2022's most strategic gaming investors?

Drake Star breaks down last year’s top gaming acquisitions. Who spent the smartest money in 2022? Find out here
Who were 2022's most strategic gaming investors?
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2022 was a turbulent year for the gaming industry due to a variety of factors.

The global normalisation in the market following the pandemic boom brought revenues down while market-specific problems such as China’s implementation of strict limits on playtimes caused uncertainty. As a result the mobile gaming sector saw the first ever year-on-year drop in revenue, although figures still remained above pre-pandemic figures in most markets.

Despite that, there were a number of notable successes. 2022 saw a wave of investment as some of the biggest gaming companies in the world sought to extend their market reach and consolidate their power, whether that was in the mobile space or the greater gaming industry.

This saw many companies best known for console games increase their pace with acquisitions of mobile studios, or companies outside of the games space entirely making a move to increase their presence in the games space.

Drake Star has reviewed the top dealmakers of 2022, and broken down what they call the top ten strategic buyers of the year – not just the companies who have spent the most money in their attempts to broaden their reach (although several of the names on the list are no doubt familiar), but those whose decisions have the potential to leave the biggest mark on the industry going forward, whether that’s by bringing new IP’s under the company’s control or giving the group the biggest inroads into new markets.

Lets start the countdown…

#10: 1- Embracer Group

1- Embracer Group

Disclosed deal value: $1.166 billion
Number of deals: 20

Only four companies in this list have broken the billion dollar mark, and Embracer Group is the smallest of them, but it makes the number one spot for the sheer diversity of its acquisitions.

Perhaps the biggest was the acquisition of Square Enix’s western assets, Through this acquisition, Embracer Group has gained control not just of several ongoing series, but lapsed ones such as Tomb Raider, Thief, and Legacy of Kain and the company has raised the possibilities of reviving these long dormant franchises.

The company also acquired the IP rights to the works of JRR Tolkein, giving it the rights to develop games based on one of the world’s best-known and most beloved fantasy franchises, The Lord of the Rings.

It appears that Drake Star believes that Embracer is well poised to continue its streak of success in the coming year, and is forecasting that it may be one of the biggest dealmakers of 2023.

#9: 2- Tencent

Disclosed deal value: $530 million
Number of deals: 9

Tencent is the world’s biggest gaming company, and was until recently the largest company in China. Despite recent turbulence in the market, the company has made a number of big acquisitions, helping it to weather the ongoing storm as Chinese regulators attempt to curb video game addiction among young gamers. These acquisitions include developers SYBO Games and Trailmix.

Notably, Tencent acquired a 49.9 percent stake in Ubisoft parent company Guillemot Bros, giving them a larger stake in the developer, with the intent of creating mobile titles based on established IPs and bringing Ubisoft titles to China. With Ubisoft allegedly eyeing up an acquisition by a large company, this makes Tencent an obvious prospect, and one that may well be attractive. Could we be looking at one of the biggest strategic dealmakers of 2023?

#8: 3- Animoca Brands

3- Animoca Brands

Disclosed deal value: $54.2 million
Number of deals: 8

Animoca Brands makes it to the number 3 spot, despite having the smallest total disclosed deal value of any company on this list. This is due to where the company has chosen to make inroads, and which companies it has chosen to acquire as part of its expansion bid.

2022 saw the company acquire companies including WePlay Media and music metaverse platform PIXELYNX, and such acquisitions can help Animoca gain a sizable foothold in the developing metaverse, staking its claim early and becoming a force to be reckoned with as it becomes more and more entrenched in the lives of consumers.

The company also acquired educational gaming platform TinyTap, through which it will establish a new business segment for blockchain-based educational content, allowing educators to create, distribute, and monetise their work.

#7: 4- Keywords Studios

4- Keywords Studios

Disclosed deal value: $145.8 million
Number of deals: 5

2022 was a year of expansion for Keywords, with acquisitions including Forgotten Empires, Helpshift, and Smoking Gun interactive, helping to boost the company’s profile while expanding its focus.

While Keywords is perhaps an underdog in comparison to some of the other companies in the list, its ranking at number 4 is reflective of the company’s growth throughout 2022. While it’s far from being a household name, unlike other entries such as Sony and Microsoft, Keywords is quickly growing to be a major player in the mobile space, and this increased profile has the potential to snowball into greater market penetration in the future.

#6: 5- Take-two Interactive

5- Take-two Interactive

Disclosed deal value: $12.7 billion
Number of deals: 4

Holding company Take-Two interactive is a giant in the games industry, with a portfolio of titles including franchises such as Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead, and BioShock. 2022 saw the company acquire mobile giant Zynga in May as it attempted to increase its foothold in the mobile space.

Mobile is the most profitable gaming platform by some distance, and it appears that this diversification has proven successful. Through Zynga and its various subsidiaries, Take-Two has acquired numerous other mobile companies, such as Popcore and growth platform Storemaven. This has helped Take-Two massively expand its profile in the mobile space, with its mobile offerings currently standing as the company’s dominant revenue stream.

#5: 6- Sony

6- Sony

Disclosed deal value: $3.6 billion
Number of acquisitions: 4

Like its chief competitor, Microsoft, Sony has been making a concerted effort to increase its profile in the mobile space, with PlayStation boss Jim Ryan stating in May that the company is “exploring the mobile market with some wonderful PlayStation franchises.”

The company’s biggest acquisition of 2022 was Bungie, which brought ownership of the Destiny franchise to Sony. Notable, a patent filed in September seems to indicate that the company is developing a mobile title based on the franchise, in-keeping with Jim Ryan’s statement in May.

The company also acquired Savage Game Studios in August through PlayStation Mobile, marking the company’s first mobile acquisition.

#4: 7- Microsoft

7- Microsoft

Disclosed deal value: $69 billion
Number of acquisitions: 3

Perhaps the biggest signifier of mobile gaming’s success is the fact that Microsoft’s ongoing acquisition of Activision Blizzard has led to Drake Star listing it among the most strategic dealmakers of 2022 - and that it only reached number 7, despite being the biggest gaming deal in history.

The deal has come under intense scrutiny from competitors and regulators alike, but Microsoft have repeatedly claimed that the focus of the deal is the mobile potential of the deal - Activision Blizzard is the home to some of the world’s biggest mobile gaming franchises, and Microsoft has historically struggled to make a notable mark on mobile gaming despite its success in both computing and console gaming.

Many competitors and regulators seem to disagree with this sentiment, and notably several big names in the mobile space have also voiced their concern about the deal, with Google claiming that the deal could create an anticompetitive environment on mobile due to Microsoft’s plans to create its own mobile gaming store, potentially affecting Play Store revenue.

#3: 8- Team17

8- Team17

Disclosed deal value: $215.5 million
Number of acquisitions: 3

Team17 made three acquisitions in 2022, and it may speak to the strength of mobile gaming that of all the top strategic game acquisitions, This is one of the few on the list not to focus on mobile gaming in its strategy throughout the year. The company acquired publishing rights to PC and console title Hell Let Loose, as well as German publisher Astragon.

In the mobile space, the company acquired San Francisco based publisher The Label, best known for titles such as What the Golf?

#2: 9- Nexters

9- Nexters

Disclosed deal value: $143 million
Number of acquisitions: 3

Nexters acquired three studios in 2022 – Cubic Games, RJ Games, and Royal Ark. These studios helped Nexters effectively increase its market penetration, in part to the range of different genres and target audiences covered, allowing the company to spread its reach throughout the mobile industry.

These acquisitions may have helped the company accelerate its growth significantly. Nexters reported net losses of $32 million in the first half of 2021, but ended H1 2022 with a record net income of $56 million. Following the acquisitions, Nexters stated that the company was keen to expand its market reach in Russian speaking territories, as well as expand its position in the midcore space.

#1: 10- Netflix

10- Netflix

Disclosed deal value: $75.5 million
Number of acquisitions: 3

Netflix first announced its intention of making a name for itself as a game maker in 2021, and 2022 saw the company making significant inroads in its attempt to increase its profile through a combination of founding new studios and acquiring existing ones, with a strong focus on mobile games.

The acquisition of Next Games in March brought three titles to the company’s portfolio based on existing IP’s - Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales, which is based on the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, and two mobile games based on the HBO series The Walking Dead: Our World and No Man’s Land. Later that month, the company made another acquisition, this time of Texan company Boss Fight Entertainment. The company made it’s final acquisition of the year, Spry Fox in October.

Although $75.5 million pales in comparison with most other deal values in the top 10, what helps Netflix stand out is the fact that these acquisitions help cement Netflix’s name as a game maker, where it had previously been known exclusively for its streaming service. While the company has struggled to engage players, the company is in good stead for future progress.