Nifty Games raises $12M to shake up mobile sports gaming

Nifty Games is aiming to reshape the mobile gaming strategies of national sports leagues, partnering with associations like the NFL and NBA to publish officially licensed titles that the startup hopes can take better advantage of mobile gaming trends.

The Bay Area games publisher announced Wednesday that they had recently closed a $12 million Series A round of fundraising led by March Capital Partners.  Defy Partners, aXiomatic Gaming, Vulcan Capital, Courtside Ventures, Transcend Fund, Century Game and OneTeam Ventures also participated in the round, which the Nifty team tells us closed earlier this year. Nifty Games also closed a $3 million seed deal in late 2018.

Co-founders Jon Middleton and Pete Wanat have been in the games industry since the 90s and have relied on their deep rolodexes to form partnerships for Nifty Games’ next set of titles.

The team announced that they were working with the NFL and an undisclosed game development partner to publish a head-to-head football title called NFL Clash that is set to debut later this year. In February, Nifty announced that they had partnered with the NBA to release a head-to-head mobile title this year as well.

With the latter half of the NBA season already suspended and doubts arising for the fate of other leagues’ seasons, delivering solid gaming experiences could grow to become even more critical as the organizations look to satiate fans during a disruptive pandemic.

The national leagues have historically banked on long-term gaming partnerships with mega publishers like EA and 2K to keep them up to date across platforms, but officially sanctioned mobile titles have largely seemed to echo the full simulation console titles that have been standard for 20+ years. In the past decade-plus, the mobile games industry has learned quite a bit about networked play and mobile monetization, Nifty Games is hoping that it can channel these partnerships into titles that can offer sports fans more varied official experiences on mobile than they may have gotten in the past.

“We definitely believe in quick sessions,” Wanat told TechCrunch in an interview. “We want to be super fun to play but with the authenticity that comes with partnering with the leagues and associations directly.”

The studio did not comment on future league partnerships beyond the NFL and NBA, but the startup says early investors in the company also include owners from the MLB, MLS, NHL and eSports leagues.