The stories behind the stories of 2022: Playtika has a Seriously turbulent time

 

It’s the end of 2022, so let’s get self-indulgent: this week we’re publishing a few personal story highlights from the first year of mobilegamer.biz, and giving you a peek behind the curtain on how they came to be published.

Playtika’s 2022 neatly reflected this year’s wider mobile market malaise.

Its casino games got hit hard by ATT; it put itself up for sale, but couldn’t get a deal over the line; it shut down high profile games and studios; and to round out the year, it said it’ll lay off over 600 staff.

This time last year, its shares were trading at $16-17; today they’re going for less than $8. ‘Turbulent’ is the word I’ve used a couple of times to describe Playtika this year – less sympathetic observers might describe its 2022 another way.

Surprise entrant to the M&A merry-go-round Joffre Capital pulled out of a deal to buy Playtika due to concerns over its governance.

It all started in February, when in the wake of the Take-Two-Zynga and (proposed) Microsoft-Activision Blizzard deals, Playtika announced it was exploring “potential strategic alternatives”. Looking for a sale or a merger, in other words.

So we indulged in some slightly mischievous speculation over what might happen next.

In May, it confirmed that it would be de-prioritising recent Wooga launch Switchcraft, and the following month, reports emerged that mysterious buyout firm Joffre Capital was close to a deal. But by the end of the year Joffre pulled out, citing questionable governance issues.

We broke the news that Seriously would be closing, and Best Fiends would be run out of Israel and Poland.

As the summer rolled around, I’d noticed a steady stream of folks moving on from Best Fiends maker Seriously in my LinkedIn feed; after asking around, multiple ex-employees and several other folks in and around Helsinki told me the studio was closing entirely.

Kudos to Playtika for having the good grace to confirm the facts with us and send over a statement to confirm it all when asked. We’ve had other companies in similar situations completely ignore multiple requests for comment and clarification, which is a real shame.

On a similar note: during what are clearly tough times, Playtika COO Shlomi Aizenberg stepped up to talk publicly through a bumpy year exclusively with us, where many other companies would have simply stayed quiet.

Fair play to Playtika for offering up an executive interview at such a tumultuous time; many other companies would have kept quiet.

As if to keep the headlines rolling, in November Playtika also found time to invest $25m in Ace Games, a Turkish outfit formed by Peak Games alumni.

A tough round of financials for Playtika led into December’s news that Playtika was to axe over 600 staff – the biggest round of job cuts we’d seen to date in mobile games. Again, rather than shying away from the news, Playtika engaged with it upfront, working with us to break the story alongside US giant TechCrunch.

With some painful departures to work through in 2023, Playtika will likely continue to play the role of industry bellwether. Though 2023 is set to be a year of belt-tightening and uncertainty, you can at least be sure of one thing: Playtika won’t be out of the headlines for very long.