Hi Everyone. We have more Naavik team updates and introductions to share! Today, we’re stoked to welcome:
- Alexandra Takei: Meet our second newest Crypto Corner host! Alex first entered the Naavik orbit through her fantastic Gods Unchained deconstruction and we immediately knew she was someone special. After spending 4 years at Blizzard (Overwatch 2, Hearthstone, Diablo 4, Diablo Immortal etc.), she spent time in indie gaming (System Era Softworks) and on games investing (BITKRAFT). She is currently pursuing her MBA at Stanford and holds the roles of President of the Video Games Club and Specialist Mentor to the Stanford Blockchain Accelerator there. Make sure to check out her debut episode below.
- Fernanda Gonzalez: Closing in on 7 years in gaming, Fernanda has played heavy market research roles in companies like Tapps Games, Product Madness and Unity. If you’re a subscriber to Naavik Pro, you would’ve already noticed her excellent research essays that broke down Playstudios and the Merge genre. She’s now decided to go all in on consulting through joining our core consulting crew and will also lead Naavik Pro’s weekly F2P updates going forward.
- Jack Sinclair: With over 7 years of game and economy design experience, Jack spent his first 2 years as a self-employed game designer and his next 5 years at EA, where he worked on two high profile projects - Real Racing 3 and The Sims Mobile. If you’re looking to work with a highly efficient, well informed and detail oriented game/economy designer, Jack is your man! He’s currently leading game design for a large Web3 project at Two Bulls, and will be bringing his F2P and Web3 expertise to our consulting team too.
- Nicolas Vizioli: Fresh of his PM internship at Wildlife Studios, Nicolas has been in industry since 2019 and is currently pursuing his passion for UGC gaming at Soba Studios as a Growth PM intern. A quick skim of his LinkedIn profile will also tell you that he’s a man of action, having a heavily entrepreneurial past and is now making sure all of you have succinct notes to read for the Interviews we conduct on The Metacast.
- Steve Bagienski: Steve is pretty fresh to the games industry, but he took to Web3 games like a fish to water. He’s contributed to writing the whitepapers for some relatively well known projects in the space and will be bringing that knowledge and brevity to Naavik as our second notetaker, and specifically for the Crypto Corner. Fun fact - he’s also a magician!
With that, let's dive into today's issue...
This Week on The Metacast
mily Greer: Lessons in Entrepreneurship, Scaling, and Culture. In this episode, Emily Greer – Co-founder and CEO of Double Loop Games (previously Kongregate) — joins Naavik co-founder Aaron Bush to discuss how her studio is aiming to redefine the casual genre. Emily also explores how the games industry’s venture ecosystem has changed since Kongragate raised capital in 2006-2010 and how she’s improved as an an entrepreneur when it comes to kickstarting, scaling, and setting an exit strategy for a business. Website | YouTube | Spotify | Apple Podcast | Google Podcast.
Crypto Skepticism: PC Blizzard Dev vs. Free to Play Web3 Game Designer. Do video games need the blockchain? Have you been asking yourself why traditional developers hate crypto OR have you been completely befuddled as to why the web2 gaming industry isn’t welcoming crypto with open arms? In this week’s Crypto Corner, new host Alex Takei is joined by Tim Morten, CEO of Frostgiant and ex-production director of Starcraft and Ethan Levy, Deconstructor of Fun’s Crypto Kid and Web3 founder to discuss the skepticism around Web3 games. YouTube | Spotify | Apple Podcast | Google Podcast.
#1: Homa Games Raises $100M
Last week, Homa announced its $100 million Series B raise. Homa raised $65 million previously: $15 million in February 2021 and $50M later in October. The Series B financing round was led by Quadrille Capital and Headline (formerly e.ventures). Northzone, Fabric Ventures, Bpifrance, Eurazeo, and Singular (the VC, not the marketing measurement company) also took part.
Homa was founded in 2018 by Daniel Nathan and Olivier Le Bas. The founders come from an ad tech background, having worked together at mobile ad startup BidMotion previously. Homa now employs roughly 160 people in Paris and remotely around the world.
Homa started as a hypercasual publisher and first made waves with Sky Roller (developed by Top Chop), released in late 2019 (156 million downloads to date). Other successes include the licensed game Nerf: Epic Pranks (63 million downloads, developed by Kadka) and the dinosaur-themed merge game Merge Master (92 million downloads, by Fusee).
Over the past two years, Homa has not only further built its existing publishing capabilities and tools but also started constructing capabilities in internal game development. To this end, Homa has acquired France-based idle game developers IRL team (2020) and Ducky Games (2021). This year, Homa bought the hyper-casual game learning platform RisingHigh Academy.
In a relatively short time, Homa has built a credible hypercasual game publishing business. Incumbents such as Supersonic (IronSource), AppLovin, and CrazyLabs (Embracer) are still ahead in sheer download volume. Still, Homa has definitely earned its place at the table with approximately 460 million yearly downloads.
Even so, a $100 million Series B implies a hefty valuation for a hypercasual publisher, especially for 2022. Undoubtedly, the financing round would not happen if the plan were solely hypercasual. Homa’s pitch is not one of focus; it’s a plan of go-big-or-go-home diversification. The bread-and-butter business of publishing hypercasual games isn’t going anywhere. Yet, Homa also plans to bolster its internal development and make a serious play on being a game developer platform. Finally, to tie it all off, Homa recently partnered with Sorare for yet unannounced web3 plans.
Out of the investors participating in Homa’s Series B, Headline and Eurazeo have been with the company since its Seed round. Furthermore, Northzone and Singular participated in Homa’s Series A round. Thus, the assumed new entrants to the cap table are Quadrille Capital, a France-based fund known primarily for its healthcare, e-commerce, and SaaS investments, and Fabric Ventures, a British blockchain-focused fund.
A big raise such as this in mobile games is definitely welcome at a time when most talk around industry funding is grim. Then again, it’s not unusual for venture capitalists to look at their portfolios during a downturn and determine which bets to double down on and which not. When capital is no longer as cheap as in 2021, savvy investors will choose their fights and not take up as many new ones. Homa’s winning formula for this fundraise combines existing investors’ trust in the company, the French founders’ connections to the local non-gaming funds, and a diversified pitch.
Raising, as commendable as it is, is only the start. Homa speaks of “democratizing game development,” a noble mission shared verbatim with Unity. Indeed, if Homa plans to take on the likes of Unity and AppLovin head to head, it might require every cent of that $100 million.
(Written by Miikka Ahonen, Co-founder of Lightheart Entertainment)
#2: Game Deconstruction — Survivor.io
A couple of years ago, Singapore-based developer Habby caught our attention with a super fun, high-paced arcade game called Archero, which helped Naavik coin a term for a new genre: hybrid-casual. Archero emerged among the wave of hypercasual titles, combining a juicy core with a light meta. And while it was an immediate success revenue-wise, its metagame raised a few eyebrows, and we evaluated that Archero’s scalability, and therefore long-term success, would remain limited.
We were not wrong. Whereas many successful titles start slow and grow their revenues through live ops, new systems, and all the after-launch development, Archero’s income peaked, dropped, and flatlined rather quickly.
Right now, Habby is attacking the market with a new hit based on killing hordes of enemies: Survivor.io, a game that, two months after its global launch, has already reached numbers that put Archero’s success to shame.
This new game is comparable to Archero in so many respects that we recommend re-reading the original deconstruction (that is, if you don’t mind spoilers).
What are the similarities? Both games are controlled by one finger, use auto-aim, quickly ramp up player abilities, and combine mid-core rogue-like mechanics with highly polished user experiences. Both games also use the exact same meta of dungeon progression (complete one to unlock the next) and combining items, rarities, and upgrade scrolls.
Dungeon progression in Archero … … and in Survivor.io
Two months in, the new game’s numbers look quite promising. Survivor.io quickly surpassed Archero’s previous peaks, especially its revenue numbers that keep reaching new heights almost on a daily basis.
Archero, however, did have strong day-1 retention out of the gate (nearly 80%!), and Survivor.io’s retention is more in line with where Archero is today (mid-40% range).
Naturally, we want to know whether Survivor.io will experience a similar story — will it gradually flame out like Archero did, or will it hold up better over time? To best answer this question, we need to look at three things:
- Habby as a company
- Survivor.io’s core gameplay
- The setup of the metagame that enables conversion and reconversion.
Let’s dive in.
Content Worth Consuming
TikTok For Game Editors (Derek Lieu): “Basically, every time you post a TikTok video it of course gets shown to your followers, BUT the really big difference between TikTok and other social media platforms is every video you post will get shown to a small number of completely random people. TikTok will try to show it to people more likely to be interested in your videos based on the hashtags you use, but the really important thing is that some amount of people who do NOT follow you will see videos you post. If the video gets enough engagement (people watch a large percentage of the video, they like it, comment, etc…. The other big difference is the audience on TikTok uses it to discover new games! People don't really browse Twitter for new games to play; it's more for people working in the game industry looking to see other people's work, scout out new games, share what they're doing, etc. People on YouTube might be subscribed to channels which share trailers, but it's not the same because there is no button or feed to just absentmindedly scroll through to find new stuff.” Link
Is Unity Still Focused On Making Games (Gi.biz): "Yes, we have businesses outside of gaming," Riccitiello says. "Yes, they generate revenue. Yes, that makes us a healthier company so we can invest more in gaming when we want to. But it also advances our understanding of technology so we can make an ever-better game engine." Link
For The Game (Dentsu): ”For brands, gaming is a massive opportunity that can no longer be ignored. As the definition of gamers moves away from stereotypes and gaming goes mainstream, brands must genuinely understand their audiences’ gaming habits if they are to thrive in and beyond the gaming arena. In this new report, For the Game, we unveil the fusion of consumer panel data from dentsu Consumer Connection System (CCS) with gaming data from GWI across 21 markets. This fusion provides invaluable information on the gaming culture and how brands can develop a presence that truly resonates with gaming communities. “ Link
- Legendary Play: Senior System & Economy Designer (Remote)
- Bungie: Director of Product Management (Remote — US)
- Guerrilla Games: Technical Animation Manager (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
- Manticore: Head of HR and Recruiting (Remote)
- Naavik: Content Contributor (Remote)
- Naavik: Games Industry Consultant (Remote)