It’s been a busy time for Playtika lately, hasn’t it?
It effectively put itself up for sale in February, closed Best Fiends studio Seriously, pulled the plug on Switchcraft and bought back a big chunk of its own shares.
We’d also heard rumours that a year after its $600m deal for Helsinki studio Reworks, Redecor is being moved to Israel (It is, kind of – but more on that later).
And let’s not forget the ATT-driven decline in Playtika’s casino games. Its Q322 financial results showed a year-on-year slots revenue decline of 10.2%, and while casual game growth made up for that (up 14.4% YOY, now 54.9% of total revenue), it wasn’t enough to please investors.
Playtika shares continue to tumble – a year ago they were trading at around $20-21, now they’re hovering around $10. Playtika went public in January 2021, remember.
So we asked Playtika COO Shlomi Aizenberg about it all. There’s a lot to digest, so let’s take it step by step:
The latest on its search for ‘strategic alternatives’ (a sale or merger):
“We’re still undergoing that process. I’m not able to comment beyond what we already publicly disclosed. We recently finished the tender offer in a successful manner – other than that, unfortunately, I cannot comment too much on this.”
On filling gaps in its portfolio:
“Yes, there are other genres that we like a lot that we believe we can bring to Playtika and could be a huge growth driver for the company. And we keep looking at other companies, M&A deals and other opportunities all the time.”
What’s going on with Reworks, Redecor and Israel:
“We announced from the get-go that this is going to be an 18 to 24 month project, as the game was really bare bones, just pretty simple mechanics. And we knew it will take us time to build the proper features, the game economy and other elements we believe we can accelerate in order to increase the community around it, the monetisation, etcetera.”
“Most of our games are being run from our HQ in Herzliya, and we’re building a strong team of Playtika veterans there that can make that stride forward and take the game to where we believe it could be.”
“So functions like product, monetisation, live ops etcetera are now based out of Israel. However, we still have the studio in Helsinki and we still have dozens of people employed there, mostly content-related people, all the original talent. That hasn’t changed. They were not laid off.”
The continued shift from casino to casual:
“We continue to invest in diversification and we’re always optimising resources, whether it’s marketing budgets or talent, in order to really maximise the chance of our games to succeed.”
“We haven’t stopped pushing and believing in our slots games and investing our time, our budgets, our energies and we believe in that segment of the business.”
On the alleged culture clash with Seriously before it closed down:
“Just being part of a global company, there are always culture gaps and cultural differences but I do not think that we ever had a significant case that had a business impact or strategic impact. We’re proud of that and that’s the way we intend to keep running the business.”
“I think part of the phenomenal journey that we have had at this company and the results we have achieved has been our laser-focus on being player-centric, focusing on the product, focusing on growth, both in top line and bottom line, so not just relying on marketing dollars for growth but really investing in content”
“This is an approach that we are taking always with all of the studios and yes, it sets a high bar. But with that, from my perspective at least, and what I know, and even looking at internal data that we had at the time, the picture that you portray is not what I’m familiar with.”
Why it pulled the plug on Switchcraft:
“We realised with global launch that the ability to scale the game to the level that is strategic for us, which is $100m annual revenue, is going to be a very difficult task. Partially because of the potential of the sub-genre and partly because of CPIs that are just very, very high.”
“So we decided to deprioritise the game. We haven’t let people go, they were just redistributed among Wooga, some working on June’s Journey and some working on other new titles.”
Why it bought scrappy battle royale maker JustPlay.LOL:
“We were impressed with the team and the success of their games, pretty much without any marketing dollars, so we decided to acquire it in order to learn about those genres where we currently do not have any footprint.”
Top priorities for the next quarter:
“We keep being laser focused on sustainability, investing in our player community, growing our casual titles, staying efficient from a business and financial perspective, looking at both bottom and top line as a whole.”
“We want to bring our slot game portfolio back to growth. We believe that we can do it and we’re highly focused on initiatives that are now really getting momentum, which is digitalising live ops and mobile game operation with AI and machine learning. I think we’re pioneers in that and I think you’re going to hear a lot more about some exciting stuff that we’re working on.”