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What Epic and Zynga Acquisitions say about the future of games and entertainment

The hot space of mergers and acquisitions in video games, just broke a record in 2020continued its momentum this week with two notable deals: fortnite and Unreal Engine maker Epic Games bought the game studio behind the pandemic fall guyswhile the Zynga Mobile Central

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bought a company known for its cross-platform and console acumen.

In each case, executives described the deals as more important than just acquiring talent and a game franchise or two. In each case, the deal suggests where the acquirer is heading, and where they think the industry and entertainment as a whole is going too.

For Epic, the agreement to buy the London group Tonic Games was a chance, yes, to acquire Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockouta sweetly vicious battle royale game involving lumpy avatars waddling through obstacles and shoving other competitors.

fall guys took off amid the pandemic with an audience not typically found on traditional battle royale titles. It represents a clever and widely accessible iteration of the battle royale free-for-all gameplay mechanic, which fortnite pioneer with so much success over the past three years.

And like Fortnite fall guys is a free-to-play title that makes money by selling branded character skins from other beloved franchises, including Cuphead and sonic the hedgehog. Most importantly, Tonic executives share Epic’s vision of a virtual future where entertainment, games, commerce and more merge into a unified, broadly accessible digital space.

“It’s no secret that Epic is investing in building the Metaverse and Tonic Games shares that goal,” said Epic Founder and CEO Tim Sweeney. said in a press release. “As Epic works to build this virtual future, we need great creative talent who knows how to create powerful games, content and experiences.”

Sweeney was a leading proponent of building the Metaverse, a concept taken from the science fiction classics of Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, and Ernest Cline. Now he’s added a few more arrows to his Metaquiver as Epic shoots to create a big digital future.

Zynga’s cross-platform play

The acquisition sensibility behind Zynga’s deal for Echtra Games is considerably less, though it could be seen as an intermediate step toward this metaverse vision.

Either way, it’s no less indicative of the mobile phone giant’s future direction. Zynga was one of the first big mobile publishers, cashing in on the early days of Facebook’s run as a public company with addictive titles like farmville, and more recently with titles such as Words with Friends, Game of Thrones Casino Slots, and Harry Potter Puzzles and Spells.

Echtra has created crossover games based on strong franchises such as The Sims, Diablo and Torchlighton platforms such as Nintendo’s Switch and next-gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft.

Zynga had already announced its first non-mobile title, a Switch version of Star Wars: Hunters, an action title slated to launch this year. But with Echtra’s talent in hand, the mobile giant can dive more confidently into creating games beyond even the burgeoning mobile space.

In this regard, Zynga’s cross-platform push echoes Epic’s, particularly with Fortnite, which is available on just about every gaming platform except iOS, where it’s suspended amid an ongoing court battle. with Apple.

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on App Store fees.

Zynga COO Matt Bromberg told Barron’s that gamers will eventually expect to be able to play a game on the platform of their choice. Subscription gaming services are an expression of this trend, but individual titles also need to play as widely as possible.

“It’s going to feel antiquated several years from now as we think about platform-based gaming experiences,” Bromberg said.

Zynga’s shift to cross-platform allows it to recoup investments in increasingly sophisticated mobile titles that can travel anywhere. The addition of cross-platform games is both fan-friendly and brand-extending, both important in a world of choice.

Epic will also add fall guys to Epic’s game store and expand to other gaming platforms, greatly expanding the game’s reach beyond its PlayStaton roots.

The new power of mobile enables ambitious games

And cross-platform mobile gaming is now more possible than ever, especially as devices add 5G networks and powerful graphics chips, allowing gamers to credibly compete with users on early gaming devices such as consoles. .

Sony still plays the platform-exclusive card profitably, but that’s much less the case with Microsoft’s latest consoles and the subscription gaming service that sits atop its console and PC offerings. Even Nintendo, long a bastion of exclusives, has loosened up a bit in recent years, allowing its franchise characters on mobile.

Apple, owner of the lucrative iOS mobile gaming platform, is going cross-platform in its own way as it migrates its laptops and desktops to the same in-house processors that run the iPhone and iPad.

Running mobile-optimized games on Apple computers should become increasingly easier for developers in the coming years, which will help alleviate one of the Mac’s biggest limitations, the lack of experiences convincing games. Apple’s reputable arcade game subscription service also typically offers titles that can be played on its phones, tablets, computers, and even Apple TV.