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Scopely headquarters in Culver City, California.
Scopely, the mobile game company behind big brand tie-ins like The Walking Dead: Road to Survival, WWE Champions and Wheel of Fortune: Free Play, hit $1 billion in lifetime revenue. Six of the game’s franchises are set to exceed $100 million, helping boost 2018 revenue by 80% year over year. Its early 2019 run rate of $400 million is getting a significant bump via last year’s hit Star Trek Fleet Command. And it’s also seeing big returns from older products like the seven-year-old Dice franchise—encompassing Dice with Buddies, Yahtzee with Buddies and Dice with Ellen—which just had its biggest year and is projected to surpass it in 2019.
“We haven’t seen how far out these things go yet but they’re going farther than everyone anticipated for sure,” Scopely’s chief revenue officer, Tim O’Brien, tells Forbes.
O’Brien says it’s Scopely’s business model that separates itself from competitors like MZ, Rovio and Niantic. While its game franchises operate on separate game-play engines, a shared proprietary publishing infrastructure, which includes analytics, ads, storefronts and leaderboards, allows for seamless implementation of new features from one game to the other, no matter the genre.
“The Yahtzee with Buddies team [at Scopely] could build a great feature [like] chat, and all of a sudden, the Wheel of Fortune team could be like, ‘Oh my god, that’s really great that you guys built that, I’ve gotta use that in my next update because I see that it improves KPIs by this much.’ And so, it just builds a lot of efficiency across the portfolio as well.”
Tim O’Brien, Scopely’s chief revenue officer.
Developing projects around major IP, like The Walking Dead in 2015 when the company was far smaller, is working out well, too. Scopely partners with franchise holders, either publishing or developing games with them in a slew of different genres. Star Trek Fleet Command, from its CBS partnership, is now Scopely’s fastest-growing game, pulling in $50 million in its first four months. Scopely leaned further into the success last month, acquiring the game’s developer, Digit Game Studios, expanding Scopely’s presence to Ireland in addition to its studio in Barcelona and headquarters in Culver City, California. All told, Scopely now has 400 employees in-house as well as an additional 400 on its payroll.
With smartphone and tablet games earning $60 billion in 2018, making up 44% of revenue across the gaming industry, according to market researcher Newzoo, mobile seems the place to be.
But the free-to-play monetization schemes mobile companies rely on are under increasing government scrutiny, and fortunes could change fast. In Europe, Belgium has banned randomized loot boxes, and the U.K. Parliament held hearings examining in-game purchases, too. In North America, Scopely’s largest market, U.S. lawmakers are attempting to regulate in-app purchases for games targeted at or played by minors. Previous attempts, so far, have failed.
“None of our games are targeted to kids, they are for a general audience,” says O’Brien, though Scopely games on Apple’s App Store are listed as low as 4+. “Our games are offered purely for entertainment. Even so, we are mindful of the concerns and always thinking of ways we can enhance player experience, allowing consumers to participate in games as they see fit. We’ve also taken several steps to address overall industry concerns and continue to clearly disclose game mechanics to ensure players understand all aspects of game-play.”
Restrictions and the suggestion of those to come are not stopping Scopely’s exponential pace. Last summer, the company raised $160 million in funding across a Series C and Series C1 round, valuing the company at over $700 million, according to Pitchbook. Investors include Evolution Media and Greycroft, as well as big individual names like Peter Guber, Jimmy Iovine and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It’s clear Scopely is confident in its mindset and approach in 2019, as it continues to grow its live games, develop new products and seek new partnerships. “What we think about a lot is ‘directed by consumer,’” O’Brien says. “And I know that you’re going to start seeing that happening across other mediums, but games for sure is leading the way, and that is one thing that we have built this publishing platform to do.”