Disclosure: The organizers of Slush paid my way to Helsinki. Our coverage remains objective.
HELSINKI — Nokia Growth Partners has invested $6 million into MAG Interactive, a company that scored big with its word-finding game Ruzzle.
MAG Interactive is a Swedish app maker that branched into games with the launch of Ruzzle 18 months ago. It resonated with gamers, and now it has been downloaded more than 45 million times. The investment shows that, in the wake of SoftBank and GungHo Entertainment investing $1.5 billion for a 51 percent in Helsinki’s Supercell, gaming is still a hot sector in Europe.
Nokia Growth Partners also invested in game startup Grand Cru, which is making a cartoon-style building game that resembles Minecraft.
Daniel Hasselberg, chief executive of MAG Interactive, made the announcement of the deal on stage at Slush, a tech conference in Helsinki. He spoke on stage with Walter Masalin, principal at Nokia Growth Partners. MAG started making apps when Apple’s iTunes App Store launched. It developed apps on a work-for-hire basis and then created Ruzzle as an original title. The game debuted in March 2012. In it, players try to find as many words as possible on a four-by-four matrix, sliding fingers across a touchscreen from one letter to the next.
Hasselberg said it was hard to find investors at first. Then the game hit No. 1 in the U.S. in January. After that happened, Hasselberg said a number investors came forward. At that point, MAG Interactive was monetizing the game and didn’t really need the funds. But it took the money from Nokia to help grow staff faster. MAG makes money from a premium version, but it also has high hopes for mobile ads, Hasselberg said.
“They have had massive engagement and have only scratched the surface on that,” Masalin said.
Hasselberg said his company has designed virality into the game through features such as the ability to brag about a round you’ve played. That helps lower the cost of user acquisition, which has soared as more companies advertise to try to get their games noticed.