Following the €10M deal in which the Dutch Takeaway acquired the Bulgarian startup HelloHungry earlier this year, yet another Western European company saw the potential of buying a Bulgarian business. The Sweden Stillfront Group announced its acquisition of Imperia Online, a leading game developer and publisher in Southeastern Europe. That’s a good sign for the growing game development industry in Bulgaria.
For gamers the Bulgarian Imperia Online might be known as the creator of the online and mobile multiplayer medieval-theme strategy title of the same title. Across its portfolio of 25 titles the game development company which was founded in 2009 by Dobroslav Dimitrov and Moni Dochev has more than 45 million users worldwide. Last year the Bulgarian company with a team of 120 has generated €5.3M revenues, the financial reports of Imperia Online show.
A matter of strategy
Dochev and Dimitrov, together with seven other shareholders will remain active as the key management team of the company. “Becoming part of Stillfront Group enables us to continue our development of new products within online strategy games. We see this acquisition as a strategic next step for Imperia Online, and we look forward to share market knowledge and create synergies with the other studios of the Stillfront Group”, Dobroslav Dimitrov, CEO of Imperia Online, said.
The most interesting part of the deal are its terms. Upon completion of the acquisition €10M will be paid to the sellers, of which €5 in cash. The rest will be paid in 269 newly issued shares in the Nasdaq First North listed Stillfront. According to the press release announcing the deal the prize could rise to €27.5 million due to earnouts based on the studio’s performance over the next three years. If that happens the deal will rank fifth among the largest IT deals on the Bulgarian market.
A rising gaming sector
The history of the Bulgarian game development goes back to 1997 when the local Haemimont Games, famous for its titles Tzar and Burden of the Crown, was founded. The sector has its traction in the region and the acquisition of Imperia Online by Stillfront is not the first sign of interest by big gaming companies in Bulgaria. Last year e.g. the Japanese leader in the development of digital games SEGA acquired the Bulgarian studio Crytek Black Sea. The acquisition was made through a subsidiary of SEGA Creative Assembly, which is one of the oldest and largest companies in the sector in the UK.
“We estimate there are around 50 game development studios in Bulgaria which employ over 1200 people”, Martin Kadinov and Hellyana Velinova, founders of Bulgarian Game Dev Summit, told Trending Topics. According to them the sector is divided in three groups – the small local studios of up to 5 employees, larger Bulgarian companies such as Haemimont, XS Software and Coherent Labs, and the local units of international businesses such as Gameloft, Creative Assembly и Ubisoft.
“In the past several years conferences and events such as Game Dev Summit, Sofia Game Dev Meetup, SYSF, as well as the international initiative Game Jam, have contributed to the development of a game dev ecosystem”, Kadinov and Velinova said. The games released in Bulgaria range from AAA title (high budget), educational ones, story driven, web и Facebook games to VR and MMORTS (massively multiplayer online role-playing game). “The most important to us is that in the past years Bulgarian studios release very qualitative titles with millions of fans globally”, Velinova, who has been organizing Game Dev Summit together with Kadinov since 2011, added.
Game development seems to be a perspective segment of the Bulgarian software sector and according to insiders more deals might follow.