Animoca Brands is one of those companies that are less known than their own product or subsidiary. However, this Hong Kong firm today has a global reach and a central place in the Web3 industry since it owns the very prominent metaverse “The Sandbox” and has also established itself as a heavyweight in crypto video games. .
Because behind the media tree “The Sandbox”, hides a plethora of takeovers and equity investments in the portfolio of Animoca. In all, the group has a foothold in nearly 340 firms whose business has a Web3 dimension. And not least: the OpenSea marketplace, Sky Mavis (behind the game “Axie Infinity”), the Decentraland metaverse, the WAX blockchain…
“The only place where we are not is probably Antarctica,” joked Yat Siu, the boss of Animoca, in February. from “Forbes” . However, his group, which initially had mobile video games as its core business, came close to bankruptcy. In 2017, its revenues are in free fall and its market capitalization – Animoca was once listed in Australia – is no more than a handful of millions. But Yat Siu – who grew up in Vienna, learned to code on a Texas Instruments computer and started his career at Atari in Germany – knows how to adapt and has flair.
Many redemptions in the video game
In early 2018 – shortly after disposing of its portfolio of 318 “casual” mobile games (games that are easy to access and intended for a very large audience) for 3.8 million dollars -, Animoca invested in Dapper Labs, the CryptoKitties game publisher. Allowing to breed, buy and sell virtual cats via crypto ether, this title thrills Yat Siu and convinces him of the potential of Web3. Low on funds, Animoca offers Dapper Labs a stock exchange; a montage that will become his trademark during the “deals” that will follow.
The 2021 financial year marks a new turning point for the group. With the media frenzy drained by Facebook around the metaverse and Web3, investors’ eyes are on Animoca, which raised $216.3 million last year (which does not include the $93 million round “The Sandbox”). In January, the firm again collected nearly 360 million, then 75 million in July, on the basis of a valuation of 6 billion. A pile of “cash” that allows Yat Siu to unfold its strategy.
“The first billion people who will go on the blockchain will be made up of people with a “gamer” profile, he stated publicly in 2019. Not cooled by the weakening buzz around the metaverse or the slowdown in the crypto market, Animoca has thus bought, in recent weeks, a slew of video game studios to which it gives free rein while acting as a conductor. A strategy and a modus operandi that are reminiscent of Embracer or Tencent in traditional video games.
“The open metaverse”
“We are totally independent, says David Nadal, president of the Lyon studio Eden Games, which was bought out in April by Animoca. To help us integrate technological bricks (blockchain, NFT) into our future Web3 racing game, they are dispatching teams from other group entities that have the expertise to do so. Yat Siu’s objective is straightforward: that all paths in Web3 lead to Animoca.
“In the group, nobody believes in the scenario of a single closed metaverse. We believe, on the contrary, that we are heading towards the open metaverse with a collection of destinations, underlines Benjamin Charbit, boss of the Parisian studio Darewise – which is working on a video game-metaverse (“Life Beyond”) – acquired by Animoca in March. And ‘Life Beyond’ is one destination, ‘The SandBox’ is another, Eden Games’ game will be another. To the infinity of Web3 and beyond.