Viennese game studio goes East
The 2010-founded Austrian game studio SocialSpiel entered a strategic partnership with the South Korean publisher and game developer Nexon. For a seven-digit sum, Nexon that is also listed at the Tokio Stock Exchange acquired a minority stake of the Austrian company SocialSpiel and provides a board member, too.
CEO Michael Borras (36, who also was CEO of localisation-based recommendation business Tupalo) and COO Helmut Hutterer (35) are on top of SocialSpiel that developed several social media and browser games such as “Tight Lines Fishing” or the successful “Asterix & Friends”. Their recent achievement is getting the Korean publisher Nexon aboard through an equity investment and having them investing a seven digit sum in a “typical series a round,” as Borras put it. The Koreans also get exclusivity in globally publishing SocialSpiel’s games in the future.
“A pretty massive audience for a small company”
The current partnership was the result of thinking about the future: “With the success of Asterix & Friends (it was for example featured with ProSieben or Sat.1 games), we reached a new stage of development of the company,” CEO Borras said: “And we needed to begin thinking about things like […] future projects, the next funding et cetera.” The heads of SocialSpiel thus began looking for a partner that would allow them to develop original and complex games.
The team then decided to pursue a partnership with Nexon: “The original idea was working together with a strategic partner who has publishing and game marketing as well as player acquisition experience,” Borras said. They were also seeking someone who was experienced in the concept of Free-to-play games, as this is the main business model of SocialSpiel. The core game is free, additional features or conveniences are payware.
Nexon was found as partner with that kind of experience. The publisher will take over the global distribution of SocialSpiel’s games and aid them with the marketing on the Asian as well as on the American market, where the Koreans are also present. Moreover, the Koreans have experience with a large audience. During 20 years of their existence, they have reached over 1.4 billion player registrations: “Which is a pretty massive audience for a small company like SocialSpiel!” Borras said.
Additionally, Nexon will place their head of worldwide corporate and business development, Taehwan Kim, as a non-executive on the advisory board of SocialSpiel: “That provides us with direct communication to our partner. And, he is available for us any time if we seek guidance […] and from a corporate perspective he is also always there if we need any guidance on structure, growing and scaling the company,” Borras explained.
At the moment, SocialSpiel employs ten people but wants to double this figure within the next one to one-and-a-half years: “We are actively growing,” said Borras but gave only some small insights into the financials of the firm. Last year, for example, they accumulated “a small profit” and broke even.
Now, the company yields to differentiate its portfolio from social media and browser games to mobile gaming applications: “From now on, we are focusing on mobile asa lead platform,” said Hutterer and added: “But that doesn’t mean we won’t release our games on other platforms in the future as well. We have a multi-platform approach.”
Thus, their plans involve producing mainly mobile games for iOS and Android devices. But, they will also “evaluate Windows phones at some point,” Hutterer said. During the next months, the two share a common goal and are glad they found a partner that has their back when they are focusing on what is most important to them: “We want to develop and focus on products with a deeper game experience,” Hutterer closed.