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Supercell has acquired a majority stake in Trailmix, the maker of the Love & Pies mobile game, and it plans to invest a further $60 million to supercharge its growth.
The move is a step up in the investment strategy for Supercell, which generates billions in revenue from games such as Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, Hay Day, Boom Beach, and Brawl Stars. While Supercell itself has stayed relatively small, it has invested in a variety of startups in the past few years. The amount of the investment wasn’t disclosed, but the $60 million figure shows Supercell is willing to invest a lot in Trailmix.
King veterans Carolin Krenzer and Tristan Clark started Trailmix in December 2017 to make a diverse and inclusive studio whose games have a positive impact. About half the leadership team is female, a reflection of the intended audience — 25-year-old to 45-year-old women.
“We’ve been working with them for such a long time, and we couldn’t be happier about our partnership,” Krenzer said about Supercell. “Love & Pies has been doing pretty well over the last few months. So it’s a natural step.”
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The company focused on creating a talented and diverse team, combining free-to-play mobile gaming with storytelling, and having a positive impact. They launched Love & Pies in September and the game has seen more than two million downloads. While that number is small, Krenzer said she was encouraged that the game had a retention rate of 10% over four months. That performance exceeded expectations, she said.
Still, the company needs to grow the game to turn it into a sustainable game over the long term. What the London company needs at this point is an investment in user acquisition, and that is what it will use a lot of the resources from Supercell for, Krenzer said. The team has grown to 30 people and it will continue to invest in live operations for the game as well. The priority is to let people be the best version of themselves.
“We are very excited to be acquiring a majority stake in Trailmix,” said Ilkka Paananen, CEO of Supercell, in a statement to GamesBeat. “The team has done a marvelous job with Love & Pies, and the company is setting a great example for the industry in having a positive impact on players. It has been a privilege to get to be a part of their journey from the beginning – Trailmix’s vision to build a diverse team to create inclusive games for everyone has inspired us, and we can’t wait to see what their talented team comes up with next.”
Krenzer said the team has always shared the same values as Supercell and it has a long-term approach to investing in games. She said that mobile has become more difficult in the post-IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) world, where Apple is focusing on privacy over targeted ads. That has made it harder to find paying users through mobile ads, and so companies have to come up with new solutions.
“User acquisition is very tough, to be honest,” Krenzer said. “But what we’ve learned is it helps to have a broadly appealing game. We have a story and a world that is appealing to players, and by our focus in the storytelling is creating something that is interesting. We have a diverse set of characters and stories being told that are not usually told in games.”
Marketing remains the biggest expense. By teaming up with Supercell, Trailmix will have more resources and less pressure. It can focus on promoting the game and its live operations without compromising its values. Trailmix will continue to operate autonomously as an affiliate of Supercell, which is owned by Tencent. Krenzer also said she values the knowledge exchange that can happen as part of Supercell.
Trailmix’s goal is to show that high care and high performance are not mutually exclusive, and that diversity is indeed a cornerstone for a highly successful business. Equally, Love & Pies has shown that it’s possible to create a snackable yet nourishing game, with better storytelling on mobile.
By getting the funding from Supercell, Trailmix will be able to control the user-acquisition spending itself, rather than surrending that function to a third party. And that enables the company to have a direct relationship with its fans and get critical feedback on the game. The team releases content every couple of weeks, and that feedback is important to receive in a timely way.
Krenzer said that the company did not want to sell itself completely to Supercell in order to retain the incentives for its own team.
“It was actually really important for Tristan and myself that we as founders, but everyone else in the company, continues to grow with the company and also continues to share in the success of the company,” Krenzer said. “The situation is perfect as we get to work closely with Supercell and invest a lot of money into Love & Pies and Trailmix. In the long term, we have stakes in the company and can make sure that Trailmix really succeeds. We have a strong partner but can still work very independently.”
Paananen recently said one of his mistakes was keeping Supercell’s teams small, even after the launch of a game. He noted that the demands on the teams grow with the post-launch tasks of launching live operations to keep fans coming back. Krenzer said she believes in creating a team that is big enough to handle both the pre and post-launch needs. The company has about 20 open roles now.
“We are just at the beginning,” Krenzer said. “We are pretty ambitious in terms of growing the game and the team, that we want to do it in a way that allows us to be successful long term and not just this year.”
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