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Playtika acquires casual mobile game maker Wooga for over $100 million

Social casino game giant Playtika announced it has completed its acquisition of Wooga, the Berlin-based maker of casual games. We heard the price was more than $100 million.

Playtika will pick up nearly 190 employees in the deal, and it will keep the entire team and its leader, Jens Begemann, who founded Wooga in 2009 and helped ride mobile games as it became a $70 billion industry. Playtika isn’t saying how much it paid.

Wooga rose to prominence in mobile games on the strength of casual titles like Diamond Dash and Bubble Island. After an ill-fated expansion into hardcore games, the company contracted via layoffs and focused on its core strength: story-based casual games like June’s Journey and Pearl’s Peril. In those games, players solve puzzles and find objects hidden in scenes.

Herzliya, Israel-based Playtika, meanwhile, was founded in 2010 by Robert Antokol, CEO, and Uri Shahak. The company’s Slotomania game was a hit, and gambling company Caesars Interactive bought the company at a valuation of $150 million in 2011. Slotomania still generates about $20 million to $22 million a month, according to a report by analyst firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.

“We see great opportunities for Playtika in the casual games genre and our acquisition of Wooga firmly positions us for this next phase of our evolution” said Antokol in a statement. “Playtika’s strengths in implementing live-operations, advanced AI and performance marketing at-scale will serve as a global springboard for Wooga’s creativity in ideating and developing winning story-led titles. Together we’ll bring audiences worldwide a whole new level of game experiences that never cease to captivate and amaze. The Wooga team is driven and passionate, has strong leadership and we’re thrilled to have them join the Playtika family.”

Playtika shot to the top of the social casino games market, where it has a No. 1 market share with 28.6 percent of the total market and $372 million in third-quarter revenue, the analysts said. They noted that Playtika is more than twice the size of its nearest competitor, Aristocrat.

It’s no surprise that Playtika itself was acquired for a second time by a consortium led by China’s Giant for $4.4 billion in 2016.

The Wooga acquisition marks a significant step in the execution of Playtika’s diversification strategy into a new genre of games. Following the acquisition, half of Playtika’s titles will be casual games.

Playtika’s expansion into new game genres began in October 2017 with its acquisition of casual games company Jelly Button Games, which has since seen twelve-fold revenue growth.

The companies said that Wooga will combine strong creative and story-driven capabilities together with Playtika’s data-driven personalization, live-operations and performance marketing expertise.

“This is an amazing day for Wooga. Becoming part of Playtika is opening the next chapter in the history of our company”, said Begemann, in a statement. “It is a very natural fit for both parties: we have the expertise in creating and launching story-driven casual games, Playtika has the technologies to help us scale and reach new audiences to continue our growth.”

Playtika has 22 million monthly active users playing its titles, and it now has more than 2,000 employees in 12 offices, including Tel-Aviv, London, Montreal, Chicago, Las Vegas, Santa Monica, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Kiev, Bucharest, Minsk, Dnepr, and Vinnitsa.

In an email, a spokesperson for Playtika said, “We feel a strong connection between the two companies — sharing similar values and a similar culture — which is essential for integrating Wooga successfully into Playtika. Additionally, Wooga’s location will give us access to the amazing talent hub in Berlin.”

Wooga said it finished its turnaround and it will be easier to compete while being part of a larger company. Wooga also said in an email, “VCs typically invest for a limited time and would have wanted to sell their shares in the next years. Instead of having that constantly looming over us, it was the right decision to now partner with a new owner that will grow with us.”

Wooga’s product portfolio will continue to stay the same.

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