Digital Chocolate, the long-troubled gaming company from original EA founder Trip Hawkins, has sold its 46-person Barcelona studio to France’s Ubisoft. The sale comes just months after the company closed down its Helsinki office. Ubisoft confirmed the acquisition to us and Digital Chocolate has yet to respond to immediate requests for comment. Ubisoft is picking up all of Digital Chocolate Spain’s technologies and brands, but they’re not acquiring any of the company’s other studios.
The company has been downsizing for more than a year, with layoffs and Hawkins stepping down in 2012 to form a new educational gaming company. It’s another tough chapter for the 10-year-old company, which has raised at least $55 million to date in four separate venture rounds.
Somewhat Ironically, even though Digital Chocolate had trouble finding its footing on emerging gaming platforms like Facebook and iOS, the company has nurtured some of the industry’s best talent. Former Digital Chocolate Helsinki head Ilkka Paananen, for example, went on to co-found and run one of the world’s most lucrative iOS gaming companies, Supercell. He’s called his time at Digital Chocolate his “MBA” of gaming. Other Digital Chocolate alums have scattered across the industry to senior positions at companies like Flurry or Angry Birds-maker Rovio.
From what I understand, the company had a difficult time grappling with and balancing between emerging gaming platforms. Digital Chocolate lacks any titles on the iPhone’s top 500 grossing charts in the U.S., according to App Annie. Then it only has two titles that are among the top 500 games on the Facebook platform by monthly active users, according to AppData.
Not only that, because of the company’s geographically distributed nature, it had a hard time coordinating title development between studios that were scattered across the world in places like Mexicali, Helsinki, Barcelona and St. Petersburg. (Some of those offices were shuttered last year too.) Many gaming companies in the industry are distributed too, but it seems like individual offices weren’t given enough creative license to design and build titles on their own.