Playtika closes Best Fiends maker Seriously after clash over studio direction

 

Playtika has closed Helsinki-based developer Seriously and moved the production of its games to Israel and Poland.

Mobilegamer.biz sources state that practically all of Seriously’s 120 staff have moved on after the Helsinki office closed on Friday September 30, but some finance and HR staff will remain in post until the end of the year. The decision was announced internally over the summer, with the LA office first to be closed, we’re told.

Playtika confirmed the closure in the following statement, sent to us by a spokesperson:

“As part of an ongoing evaluation of its global operations, Playtika will close its Helsinki operations site, consolidating the management of the Best Fiends game into its Israel and Poland offices. We will work closely with our local employees to ensure a smooth and compassionate transition.”

Seriously was acquired by Playtika for an undisclosed sum in August 2019. The sources we spoke to said that Seriously’s closure was the result of disagreements between owner Playtika and Seriously staff and leadership, who had very different ideas about how to move forward.

The Seriously team pictured in March 2018.

In short: Seriously wanted to invest heavily in creating new games, but Playtika’s focus was on growing Best Fiends while adding more aggressive monetisation to the title.

“Playtika pressure was to increase KPIs and grow Best Fiends, they didn’t trust or want us to pivot and didn’t want to give us adequate budget to explore new games,” said one source.

“Most of the working relationship problems came from fundamentally different ways of looking at a game like Best Fiends,” they said. “Playtika wanted us to keep adding more aggressive monetisation and pressure for players to purchase – this has been noticed by our fans and it hasn’t been a successful strategy at all.”

Sources elsewhere at the studio suggested that Seriously management, including CEO and co-founder Petri Järvilehto, soon came to regret selling to Playtika.

Co-founders Andrew Stalbow and Petri Järvilehto. Stalbow left Seriously in January 2022, according to LinkedIn.

Seriously’s closure has been particularly tough on several Ukrainian staff who had just moved from Playtika’s offices in Kyiv, Vinnytsia and Dnipro to settle in Helsinki. Those staff had been relocated following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Our sources also suggested that at least three new studios will rise from Seriously’s ashes in the coming months.

They were also keen to stress that most of their colleagues have found work at other studios, compensation has been generous and the studio’s HR and recruitment teams have been very active in seeking new roles for Seriously staff throughout the summer.

They spoke particularly well of CEO and co-founder Petri Järvilehto’s conduct, who has taken personal responsibility for the studio’s demise. At one point over the summer, when Järvilehto was out of the office, Seriously staff covered the door to his office in post-it notes expressing their gratitude to him, the studio and their colleagues.

Our sources did not say the same about Playtika leadership, who were described as “ruthless” and “impatient”.

Monthly Best Fiends revenue peaked at $9.1m in March 2022. Downloads peaked in June 2021 at 2.1m.

Seriously’s flagship game Best Fiends was not struggling – quite the opposite. Seriously has earned over $427m in IAP revenue since Best Fiends launched in 2015, and the game is close to hitting 90m downloads, according to Appmagic data.

Since the acquisition in August 2019, downloads have been declining but IAP revenue has continued to rise steadily. Over the last six months Best Fiends revenue averaged out at around $7.5m per month. In the six months prior to the Playtika acquisition in August 2019, Best Fiends was earning $6.3m per month, on average. 

Companion titles Best Fiends Forever and Best Fiends Stars have been less successful overall, but are still multi-million dollar games. Appmagic data suggests that idle clicker Best Fiends Forever made Seriously just over $4m from 14.7m downloads since its launch in October 2016, while Best Fiends Stars, a more casual puzzler launched in 2019, has earned $12.4m from 5.3m downloads.