Nexon is making a move to expand its appeal in the West.
The publisher and developer announced today that it has acquired Big Huge Games, the company it worked with to create the mobile strategy game DomiNations. Nexon would not reveal how much it spent on the studio. DomiNations has had over 19 million downloads since its April 15 launch, according to Nexon. That makes it a hit in the $34.8 billion mobile business.
Big Huge Games has an interesting history. It created the real-time strategy game Rise of Nations in 2003 before THQ acquired it in 2008 and then sold the company to 38 Studios — baseball star Curt Schilling’s short-lived gaming venture — in 2009. There, Big Huge Games worked on the fantasy role-playing game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning until 38 Studios laid off the entire Big Huge Games staff. Original founders Tim Train and Brian Reynolds bought back the name Big Huge Games from an auction by the state of Rhode Island, which was selling off 38 Studios’ assets. The then independent company worked with Nexon on Big Huge Game’s first mobile title, DomiNations.
“We don’t necessarily move to acquire every company we work with,” Nexon chief executive officer Owen Mahoney (who will be one of the speakers at our GamesBeat Summit) told GamesBeat. “But in the case of Big Huge Games, we felt strongly that the team had a couple of things that we really liked. The game is fantastic. The team approaches game-making in a very similar way to how we like to think about games. We felt a lot of affinity for how we approached games as an art form and games as a business. From the very beginning, we had a very good dialogue with everyone over there. You get to know a team really well during the process of launching a game and building it out and bringing it international. We felt like we had a solid knowledge base about the company and a very similar view of the world. Because we see our futures very similarly, that created an environment for us to talk about how we could do more things together. That led to discussions about the acquisition.”
Mahoney added that the acquisition will not impact staffing at Big Huge Games. He also noted that while Nexon primarily does most of its business in Asian markets (Nexon does about $1.8 billion in revenue a year), DomiNations has been a worldwide hit.
“Like some other games that have done well between East and West, between the art style and the gameplay style, it happens to hit on something in both cases that works well between multiple regions,” Mahoney told GamesBeat. “That would be one. Number two, I think we’ve worked really hard at the execution layer to make sure we were very integrated with the team, that we prioritized what the feature set looks like. You always have a situation where you’re trying to make the game more optimized, but then you also want to introduce new features. Executing on those things and prioritizing all your different markets is a challenge on a daily basis. We seem to have done okay at that. All those things together helped the team a lot.”
Mahoney also said that the acquisition isn’t just about future support for DomiNations, but that Big Huge Games will create new titles for Nexon.