In a move to shore up institutional support in what’s likely to be it’s last fundraising as a private company, the Los Angeles-based mobile gaming behemoth Scopely has raised $340 million in its latest eye-popping round of funding.
Acting as if there’s not still a global pandemic raging throughout the world, some of the largest institutional financing firms, like Wellington Management, TSG Consumer Partners, CPP Investments and funds managed by BlackRock, poured more money into the gaming giant just one year after the company raised $200 million in another late-stage funding round.
“What we are seeing is that there’s a significant appetite from public market investors to interactive entertainment as a category,” said Scopely co-chief executive Walter Driver. “We were excited to cross over and invest in Scopely.”
These late-stage, traditionally pre-IPO investors joined NewView Capital, Battery Ventures, Greycroft, Revolution Growth and Highland Capital Partners in the funding, which values the company at $3.3 billion, according to a person familiar with the financing.
The massive windfall won’t mean anything for Scopely’s strategy, as the already wildly profitable business continues to grow both organically and through its acquisition strategy of major mobile gaming studios, according to Driver.
Unlike the other big companies that have taken billions of dollars in the gaming market — chiefly Epic Games and Unity — Scopely isn’t making tools for gaming. The focus at the Los Angeles-based company is squarely on the games themselves and the players who spend billions of dollars on them.
“Scopely is focused on building the end-to-end publishing capabilities and development capabilities that will result in the longest-term relationships with players for years to come,” Driver said. “This space is evolving really quickly and we have grown exponentially. If we want to be the leading company in the space, we have to be capitalized like the leading the company in the space.”
In terms of capitalization, no other mobile gaming studio comes close. The company’s closest competitor, both in proximity and in strategy, would probably be the other LA-based mobile gaming company, Jam City. *
Scopely doesn’t shy away from developing aspects of the platform technologies that have powered Epic and Unity to their own multi-billion-dollar valuations, but it isn’t selling those tools to other companies, Driver said.
“Our belief is that over the long term the most valuable companies in this space are going to be fully vertically integrated and own proprietary technology platforms,” he said.
For Scopely, technology development is all about user retention, and developing the publishing capabilities and development capabilities that will help the company and its games stay relevant to an increasingly expanding and increasingly savvy audience of gamers.
And the company has an eye on the future. It’s looking at moving more of its games between platforms desktop, mobile and consoles as games evolve to be played across those different systems. While that doesn’t mean developing for augmented reality or virtual reality hardware yet, Driver doesn’t rule it out.
“We do think there’s going to be continued innovation of new genres and consumer experience and more convergence and cross-pollination between platforms. Scopely is going to be focused on a player-centric approach rather than a device-centric one,” said Driver.
For Driver and his co-chief executive, Javier Ferreira, Scopely’s growth — and that of the total gaming industry — represents an evolution in the ways that consumers want to be entertained.
Scopely’s players are spending 80 minutes per-day on games like “Star Trek Fleet Command,” “MARVEL Strike Force,” “Scrabble GO” and “YAHTZEE with Buddies,” and that time spent is actually spent socially.
“People have found — and investors looking at the space have found also — that people value the connection they’re getting from interactive experiences. It’s not just our relationship with the players, but their relationships with each other,” Driver said. “Inside of most passively consumed media experiences, you don’t have an identity. You don’t have friends.“
Or, to put in more nakedly capitalist terms, “We believe mobile gaming’s rapid growth makes it one of the most attractive categories in entertainment from an investment standpoint,” as Dan Sundheim, the co-founder of late-stage Scopely backer D1 Capital, said in a statement. “We are confident that Scopely’s vision for the future coupled with its strategic approach to creating a vertically integrated game-making ecosystem, differentiated technology platform, and deep relationships with players will continue to cement its status as an industry leader.”
*An earlier version of this article incorrectly cited Jam City’s valuation as $1.1 billion. The company has not disclosed its valuation recently.