British game development company Sumo Digital will be acquired by the Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent in a deal worth $1.3 billion. The move follows on from the acquisition of other European companies that include Yager and Funcom, as the scale of Tencent’s investments around the world have ballooned in recent months and years.
Sumo Digital was founded in 2003, and built themselves up predominantly on work-for-hire development, licensed games and ports. That meant that their projects have included games like LittleBigPlanet 3 and most recently Sackboy: A Big Adventure, where they were the lead developer, as well as providing additional development resources for the recent Hitman trilogy and Disney Infinity, handling the Xbox 360 version of Forza Horizon 2, and so on. Perhaps the game for which they’ve received the biggest acclaim is Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing and its sequel.
However, in recent years, Sumo has also branched out into developing their own original IP. This included slithering platformer Snake Pass, Apple Arcade exclusive Spyder, and most recently the multiplayer game Hood: Outlaws & Legends.
In other words, they have an exceptionally broad portfolio, and the company had grown in size over the last few years to match. Since opening Sumo India as their first subsidiary, Sumo Digital has made a number of acquisitions and expansions to now feature 14 studios in 5 countries and with 1200 staff.
Sumo CEO Carl Cavers said, “Tencent has a strong track record for backing management teams and their existing strategies. Alongside the acceleration of Own-IP work, Tencent has demonstrated its commitment to backing our client work and has stated its intention to ensure that we have the necessary investment to continue focusing on work with our key strategic partners on turn-key and co-development projects. […]
“We believe that the Acquisition is in the best interests of everyone connected to the business – our shareholders, our people, and our clients – and thank all our stakeholders, past and present, for the resounding support they have given us over the years. The future of Sumo is more exciting than ever.”
Tencent has invested heavily in video games over the last few years, with stakes made in everyone from Platinum Games, Dontnod and Remedy Entertainment up to Epic Games and Ubisoft. They also own Funcom, Sharkmob and League of Legends developer Riot Games outright, and have their own Timi Studios, which has created smartphone games including Call of Duty Mobile.
Despite the assurances of a hands-off approach, many will be wary of the impact that this will have on the UK development scene, especially after the recent acquisition of Codemasters by Electronic Arts. We’re a decade removed from a string of venerable foreign-owned studios being shut down, including Bizarre Creations, Lionhead, Studio Liverpool, Evolution Studios and more. Hopefully history doesn’t repeat itself…