Scopely invests $20 million in casual game maker Burlingame Studios

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Scopely has made a $20 million investment in Burlingame Studios, a new game studio founded by veterans of casual games.

Chris McGill, CEO of Burlingame Studios, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the team already has about 20 to 30 people, depending on how you count full-timers and contractors. The studio will focus on casual mobile games, he said.

Many of the veterans are alumni of Glu and CrowdStar. The latter created the highly successful free-to-play game Design Home and Covet Fashion.

The deal is one of several actions by Los Angeles-based Scopely, which has been busily raising funds for itself and investing heavily in gaming talent. In October, Scopely bought GSN, maker of the Wheel of Fortune game, from Sony for $1 billion.

McGill said Burlingame Studios sees Scopely as a partner, as Scopely owns a number of game studios, as well as its Playgami technology platform for creating and optimizing mobile games.

“Like Design Home, we make apps with game mechanics, and those are for people who don’t consider themselves gamers,” McGill says.

The founders of Burlingame Studios (which made popular games for women).

Games like Design Home are the foundation of the company, but aren’t necessarily indicative of what it does, he said.

“We think we’re actually expanding the gaming pie rather than fighting for the finite number of people who consider themselves gamers,” he said.

Scopely’s ecosystem is focused on building game teams with “incredible talent density while eliminating the traditional boundaries between developer and publisher.”

McGill most recently served as senior vice president and general manager at Glu Mobile. Glu acquired CrowdStar in 2017 and Electronic Arts gobbled up Glu for an enterprise value of $2.4 billion in 2021.

McGill’s co-founders are Jose Avila, Barlow Gilmore, Brandon Jones and Scott Cuthbertson. Now I’m not exactly sure how this bunch of guys specialize in making casual games that are mostly consumed by women, or people who don’t consider themselves gamers. But there is no doubt that the games were successful.

The team is based in Burlingame, but has members as far as Guatemala and Argentina.

“It’s actually a great group of people. It’s a mix of people I’ve worked with for a long time and we’re like family, and we have new blood and are very excited after being on the sidelines for a while,” McGill said. “It’s just nice to be creating again. I am super proud of it.”

Scopely has also invested in blockchain game company Animoca Brands; IndiGG, a sub-DAO of Yield Guild Games; and Polygon, a decentralized Ethereum scaling platform; and game studios around the world, such as Tag Games and Pixel Toys.

As for choosing Scopely, McGill said the startup had many financing options.

“In the end, Scopely was an obvious choice,” he said. “It was a clear winner.”

He has known Scopely’s co-CEOs Walter Driver and Javier Ferreira for a long time, and he knows their creative process and their centralized infrastructure and user acquisition skills. As for the amount raised, McGill said it gives the company a lot of runway.

Tim O’Brien, Chief Revenue Officer at Scopely, said in a statement: “We are proud to invest in this group of game makers who are deeply committed to building the best experiences possible and are thrilled to have chosen us as their Favorite Partner. We believe our ecosystem is extremely unique and are always energized when new partners see the value of our infrastructure and technology – especially our Playgami platform – to turn their fun, creative gameplay into great business. Today marks a bright future of collaboration, and we are excited to work with Chris and team.”

FYI, I’m going to SXSW next week and will be moderating a panel with Scopely and Paramount on the making of Star Trek Fleet Command.

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