Nexon Takes A Strategic Stake In Former Zynga, EA COO’s New Gaming Startup

Nexon, the publicly traded free-to-play gaming giant out of Asia, is continuing its streak of strategic investments in promising Western studios by taking a stake in former Zynga COO John Schappert’s new startup Shiver Entertainment, Inc.

They didn’t disclose the size of the deal, which will see Nexon take an equity stake in the company in exchange for exclusive global publishing rights to Shiver’s upcoming games. Nexon’s CFO Owen Mahoney will also get a role on Shiver’s board of directors.

Schappert most recently served as Zynga’s COO after holding the same role at rival Electronic Arts. Shiver won’t be Schappert’s first startup, as he founded Tiburon Entertainment back in 1994. That company, which spawned the massively successful Madden NFL franchise, was bought by EA in 1998.

Schappert said he knew the day he left Zynga that he wanted to found another startup instead of joining an existing gaming company at a senior level.

“I’ve been very lucky to work on the biggest franchises in the industry. What gets me the most excited is building immersive games and working with some of the best creators in the industry,” he said.

He hasn’t revealed who is on his team, but says that news is forthcoming very soon. He started the company about nine months ago and hinted that we might see some titles out of the company shortly.

He wouldn’t give too many specifics on what genres the company will focus on, except to say, “We’re going to focus on more significant, more immersive games — the high fidelity games that people play $50 to 60 for — except in a free-to-play format.”

This isn’t the first company from a Zynga alum that Nexon’s done a deal with either. The Tokyo-headquartered company recently did another similar strategic investment in a startup from Brian Reynolds, Zynga’s former chief game designer.

These deals are part of an effort to help Nexon reach more Western audiences. While Nexon generated nearly $450 million in revenues in the first three months of this year, European and North American markets contributed about 8 percent of the company’s revenues during that time. In contrast, China makes up nearly half of Nexon’s revenue base.

So Nexon is looking to reach North American and European audiences as the Android and iOS platforms weaken the divide between Asian and Western gamers.