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Miniclip has agreed to acquire Sybo, the creator of the hit mobile game Subway Surfers. The terms of the contract are not disclosed. But it’s a big problem.
The move is a sign of consolidation in the game, and it comes on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the launch of Subway Surfers. The game has become an evergreen title that has had over three billion downloads since 2012.
Over the past 18 months or so, Subway Surfers has seen its daily active users grow from around 15 million to 20 million per day to now around 30 million per day, Sybo CEO Mathias Gredal Nørvig said in an interview with GamesBeat. He credited efforts to focus on live operations to bring players back. Although he doesn’t talk about the purchase price, as both companies are private, Gredal Nørvig said it was the biggest European mobile games deal this year.
“It is indeed monumental. The founders were really proud of what they were able to accomplish with Subway Surfers becoming the biggest game, seeing how the market kept downloading, how players kept liking, how fans kept coming,” said Gredal Nørvig. “We had a very good race and over the last two years the teams have raced very well on their own. With the consolidation happening in the market and all the increased user acquisition budgets, everything happening around us, they wanted to explore what that might mean, if we could find the right solution or the right home for Sybo in the future. What’s really important to us is finding a partner who saw where we wanted to go and who could get us there.
Overall, Miniclip will have something like 70 million daily active users, Saad Choudri, CEO of Miniclip, in an interview with GamesBeat.
“Sybo is one of the gems of the mobile game industry in terms of IP generated from a mobile game,” Choudri said. “There are only a handful, like Angry Birds, and as a single game, we know Subway Surfers is the biggest. We prioritize audience engagement as our #1 thing, and our whole vision and goal is to be the most popular gaming company in the world. This is squarely achieved by what Sybo and the team are doing now with Subway Surfers.
The greatest game
By the way, Miniclip’s numbers are now bigger than Roblox’s, thanks to Subway Surfers.
Sybo debuted in 2010, founded by Danish animation school graduates Sylvester Rishøj Jensen and Bodie Jahn-Mulliner. Their short film spawned Subway Surfers, which they then co-developed with Kiloo, a Danish game publisher.
“We are very grateful for the vision, expertise and execution of Mathias and the entire SYBO team, who have empowered Subway Surfers both creatively and commercially over the past decade,” said Sibo co-founder Sylvester Rishøj Jensen, in a statement. “Subway Surfers continues to be a hit mobile game for millions of fans around the world, year after year.”
Operating on this scale, Sybo had very big ambitions.
“We think we can bring people together, even if it’s just an occasion, even if it’s just a snack between meetings or between school sessions,” Gredal Nørvig said.
About half of the company’s staff is focused on adding additional features for gaming and extending playtimes with live operations.
“We’ve had different teams working on activities that we’re looking forward to announcing to the market very soon. We have a title and a soft launch and we have other things coming to app stores relatively soon. So we killed some projects at the time. But now we are finally ready to meet the market again with new games this year,” said Gredal Nørvig.
He added: “If you look at Subway, from three years ago to where it is today, it’s a very different game. What people sometimes don’t realize is that you put really the effort, dev resources, time and whatever else you need to create a new game in what could be a feature in a pre-existing IP like this.
Miniclip, which is majority-owned by Tencent, has released some of the most downloaded games in the world. Founded in 2001, the company has managed to grow a huge global following in over 195 countries and across six continents, with over 60 games in its growing portfolio, which has helped the studio surpass three billion downloads by the end of June 2020, before reaching four billion downloads in the first quarter of 2022.
“When we started 10 years ago, our dream was to create something special that would be loved by generations to come,” Sybo co-founder Bodie Jahn-Mulliner said in a statement. “The entire company and our amazing fans have taken the game to stellar heights. We’ve truly had a perfect flow in our partnership and gaming journey, which has now culminated in what is one of the most biggest, if not the biggest, transaction in the history of Danish gaming.It is a legacy of which we are both very proud.
The first days
Sybo, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, co-developed the game with Kiloo, the publisher. The acquisition is expected to close in July after the legacy game’s 10th anniversary and a record year for daily installs, daily active users and daily revenue. In 2020, Sybo took over the publishing role itself.
Of the founders, Gredal Nørvig said: “When they started the business, they never planned to sell, because reaching this level of self-sustaining teams is not something we had considered. And I’ve said “no” relentlessly, at least once a week, to many potential buyers over the years because we’ve done very well as a quality-driven company. »
He added: “It’s hard to imagine how many players we reach. So it involves a lot of responsibility, with a lot of fan interaction and love for the community,” said Gredal Nørvig. “We want to cater to this community. So we want to allow them to enjoy IP in different genres. But we also want to show that we can also explore new IPS because people have grown up with Subway Surfers.
Under Gredal Nørvig’s leadership, a team of savvy and experienced executives navigated an industry of opportunity and challenge. The company plans to keep the current management team in place with David Byrne, who joined in 2018 as chief operating officer and head of games; Naz Amarchi-Cuevas, who joined in 2017 as Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Marketing Officer; Anne Schnack Hansen, who joined in 2018 as Director of Human Resources; and Andreas Glenvig, who joined in 2019 as Chief Financial Officer.
“Since its launch in May 2012, the mobile game Subway Surfers has reached over 150 million monthly active players, it holds the most downloaded mobile game title, it was the first game in the world to cross one billion downloads on Google Play, and the most downloaded endless runner game in Apple’s App Store history,” said Choudri. “Miniclip has always been focused on creating high-quality games that unleash the player in everyone, which has helped define the business and enabled us to dominate a crowded market, delivering consistent growth through building our mergers and acquisitions with fantastic and innovative new partners. That’s why the team at Sybo felt so naturally at home, having developed one of the most popular games in the world. They have a proven track record of delivering and maintaining an amazing gaming experience, as well as continuing to grow virally. We are beyond excited to welcome them to the Miniclip family as we empower them to keep running and racing.
Sybo is among Miniclip’s latest acquisitions of game developers, following recent acquisitions of Supersonic Software (One Clue Crossword and Picture Cross) and Eight Pixels Square (Sniper Strike: Special Ops).
Raine served as exclusive advisor to Sybo in its sale to Miniclip. And Bech Bruun acted as legal and tax advisor to Sybo.
Today the game is completely self-published by Sybo and continues to develop regular updates for Subway Surfers. Subway Surfers launched on the Apple Store in May 2012 and quickly rose to the top of the charts. A week after its release on the App Store, Subway Surfers was the number one downloaded game in 20 countries and soon after was number one in 50 countries including the United States.
In September 2015, three years after its debut, Subway Surfers reached the milestone of one billion downloads worldwide. Subway Surfers tops the most downloaded mobile game of 2019 worldwide, and today Subway Surfers has had over three billion downloads. Sybo now has 140 people.
Choudri said a market correction is currently occurring due to slowing macroeconomic trends, and he said his firm has remained disciplined in its approach to trading.
“We’re seeing some of the moss coming out of the market a bit, but I actually think that’s a good thing because we needed a market correction,” Choudri said. “Some of these transactions and valuations that we were seeing were difficult to justify. We are taking a long-term view.
Miniclip has 910 people in 13 offices and an audience of 250 million monthly active users. To date, Miniclip’s digital games, which include the 8 Ball Pool, Golf Battle, Football Strike, Carrom Pool and Agar.io franchises, have generated over 4 billion downloads. Tencent bought a majority stake in 2015. Choudri said the company plans to launch 14 games this year.
“We’re in the gaming business,” Choudri said. “We are not here to create some sort of financial arbitrage. We want to keep making great games and launching great games. And that’s why we have more launches than we’ve ever had this year, at 14. And Sybo has a roadmap and they’ll be releasing new games soon enough. Hopefully we’re excited to hear about it in the months to come.
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