Is the merge genre wildly oversubscribed, or just getting started? It’s emphatically the latter for Cypher Games CEO Anil Simsek.
The Turkish start-up revealed it had raised $3.2m in pre-seed funding last week, and with that cash it intends to take on the likes of Merge Mansion, Merge Inn and Merge Mayor with one, maybe two new riffs on the genre.
And after that, Simsek is eyeing up a piece of Moon Active’s lucrative slots business and maybe match-3, too.
Simsek is a former investor at Turkven, the biggest private equity fund in Turkey, who was involved in deals across FMCG, tech and gaming before going it alone with Cypher.
He brings with him five other co-founders, four of whom built Merge Barista for Zerosum Games, which was acquired by Rollic in 2021. Cypher’s $3.2m pre-seed round was led by Play Ventures, with 500 Global, serial investor Joakim Achrén and Tripledot’s Akin Babayigit also along for the ride.
“Play Ventures’ know-how is really, really significant, especially in merge,” Simsek tells us. “We are bringing a new type of merge game to the market – we see many problems in the genre, like lack of social layers, lack of live ops, too many repetitive experiences…”
The core development team has good genre experience; Cypher’s first release will be that team’s third merge game, having made Merge Barista and another unreleased title for former employer Zerosum Games.
The aim, says Simsek, is to move fast: Cypher’s aiming for soft launch by the end of the year, with a global release in the spring of 2023.
“Once upon a time, when Dream Games raised $7.5 million, everybody was asking them: how different can you make a match game?” says Simsek. “I remember the CEO saying that there are too many mediocre games in the genre, and too many people still do not play puzzle games.
“The same here applies to merge and it applies much more,” he continues. “There’s a really, really small user base, right? The whole genre is producing less than 100 million dollars a year – Merge Inn, Merge Mayor and Merge Mansion all combined do not produce 100 million per year. So I believe we have a long way to go in expanding the merge userbase.”
To do that, the Cypher team aim to fix several monetisation problems it sees in the genre, by borrowing features and techniques from slots, tycoon and match-3 games.
The team is expanding quickly – at the time of our conversation last week the team was at 13, but Simsek says Cypher will have 25-30 staff by the end of the year and around 50 by spring 2023. After that it wants to open a new office in Berlin as a way of retaining local talent who might want the experience of living outside Turkey.
And after merge, it is looking into other hot genres like slots, and even challenging Moon Active. “I believe being a challenger there is a good game, like a good financial game,” says Simsek of going up against Moon Active. “I believe Cypher will manage to do it in a good way. But we’ll see in 2023 probably whether we are gonna go there or not.”
And while we’re talking hot markets, Simsek’s not afraid to enter match-3, either. “I still believe that that is a huge user base which is untapped,” he says. “Royal Match is growing tremendously, so I guess that could be a good game as well. But it’s not today’s discussion for us.”