MAG Interactive, a Swedish app maker that went on to create Ruzzle, a game that’s been downloaded more than 45 million times in the last 18 months, just picked up $6 million in a round of funding led by Nokia Growth Partners. Another private investor whose identity remains undisclosed filled out the rest of the round.
While U.S. investors may have cooled a bit on mobile gaming, it continues to be incredibly hot in Europe with Supercell recently picking up more than $1.5 billion from Softbank and Gung-Ho and U.K.’s King on the road to a potential IPO. Nokia Growth Partners also recently backed what’s considered Finland’s most promising emerging game startup, Grand Cru.
MAG Interactive makes for another bet in the gaming space. The company, which started making apps the day that the iOS app store launched, originally was a studio-for-hire that built apps for other clients. They moved away from the agency model and started building apps for themselves.
Eventually they put their first game, Ruzzle, out in March of last year. It’s a take on classic word-finding games, where players compete to find as many words as possible on a four-by-four grid by sliding their fingers from letter to letter.
Daniel Hasselberg said his team started thinking about mobile Internet services and games a couple of years ago. They initially soft-launched Ruzzle, but it took off in late 2012 and early 2013 and hit the #1 spot in the U.S.
“If we want to grow to the next level, we thought that we needed someone with experience in scaling an organization and that could externally challenge our ideas and thoughts,” Hasselberg said.
They didn’t need the capital, because like many successful gaming studios, they were already profitable. In the deal, none of the team took money off the table though. The investment went into MAG Interactive’s parent company.
The company plans to hire more staff to grow beyond their current headcount of 22 people. They also want to make it more of a proper free-to-play experience. Right now, the app uses a premium model where users can pay for an experience without ads.