Game Unicorn Index

Combined value of private companies at $200 billion

(updated June 2021)

1.ByteDance
Beijing; est. 2012 / valuation reported as of Mar 2021
$62.5 billion *
2.Epic
Cary; est. 1991 / post-money valuation as of Apr 2021
$28.7 billion
3.Krafton
Seongnam; est. 2007 / over-the-counter valuation as of Apr 2021
$17.9 billion
4.Valve
Bellevue; est. 1996 / private, estimated value as of May 2021
$17.8 billion
5.ironSource
Tel Aviv; est. 2010 / SPAC combined enterprise value as of Mar 2021
$9.4 billion *
6.Smilegate
Seongnam; est. 2002 / private, estimated value as of May 2021
$8.9 billion *
7.FunPlus
Zurich; est 2010 / private, estimated value as of Feb 2021
$8 billion
8.Playrix
Dublin; est. 2004 / private, estimated value as of Sep 2020
$7.8 billion
9.Discord
San Francisco; est. 2012 / post-money valuation as of Dec 2020
$7 billion *
10.miHoYo
Shanghai; est. 2012 / rumored value as of Dec 2020
$4.6 billion
11.Niantic
San Francisco; est. 2010 / post-money valuation as of Jan 2019
$4 billion
12.Scopely
Culver City; est. 2011 / post-money valuation as of Oct 2020
$3.3 billion
13.Wildlife
São Paulo; est. 2011 / post-money valuation as of Aug 2020
$3 billion
14.Techland
Wrocław; est. 1991 / private, estimated value as of May 2021
$2.4 billion *
15.Nexters
Larnaca; est. 2009 / SPAC combined enterprise value as of Feb 2021
$1.9 billion
16.Wargaming
Nicosia; est. 1998 / private, estimated value as of Feb 2016
$1.5 billion
17.Voodoo
Paris; est. 2013 / post-money valuation as of Aug 2020
$1.4 billion
18.Devolver Digital
Austin; est. 2009 / private, estimated value as of May 2021
$1.4 billion
19.Rec Room
Seattle; est. 2016 / post-money valuation as of Mar 2021
$1.25 billion
20.Moon Active
Tel Aviv; est. 2011 / post-money valuation as of Jan 2020
$1.25 billion
21.Jam City
Culver City; est. 2010 / SPAC combined enterprise value as of May 2021
$1.2 billion
22.Playstudios
Las Vegas; est. 2011 / SPAC combined enterprise value as of Feb 2021
$1.1 billion
23.Playco
Tokyo; est. 2020 / post-money valuation as of Sep 2020
$1 billion
24.Forte
San Francisco; est. 2019 / post-money valuation as of May 2021
$1 billion
25.Bungie
Bellevue; est. 1991 / private, estimated value as of May 2021
$1 billion *
26.Mobile Premier League
Bengaluru; est. 2018 / post-money valuation as of Feb 2021
$0.9 billion
total combined valuation:$200.2 billion
all prices in US dollars | updated June 2nd, 2021

This list highlights private bootstrapped game companies, alongside the venture-backed game companies that have reached unicorn status on the path to initial public offering. Also included are the special purpose acquisition companies, valuated before completing the process.

Together, they represent $200.2 billion dollars in value.

The average gaming unicorn is 13.1 years in the making. There are fewer than thirty in the wild today.

These companies capture the public imagination, the capital markets’ resources, and the attention of the tech press at large. For entrepreneurs, they represent the holy grail for any start-up.

There are more companies that will eventually reach this stage of growth if they are not acquired first.

Readers are encouraged to email with omissions. There are certainly private game companies with post-money valuations exceeding one billion US dollars that are not on this list. When companies decide to keep their status secret, there is a certain reputational and strategic price they pay. Most firms ultimately need visibility to succeed in the public market.

Return on Investment —

pre-IPO valuations are lower than after-market worth: e.g., Unity’s last private valuation was $6 billion; today the public market cap is $24.69 billion. Roblox’s last private valuation was $29.5 billion; today the public market cap is $42.86 billion. If the values on this list are not exceeded post-IPO, this may represent a failure to realize return for the last round of private investors.

China —

Games One can state that Lilith Games is a unicorn based on revenues alone, though no value seems to be published in the west. VSPN is likely in the category as well. Reports indicate that Hypergryph and Papergames are worth tens of billions of RMB. Chinese companies are significant to the global market, but access to detailed information is limited.

Negative Unicorns
Magic Leap
Plantation; est. 2011 / valuation reported as of Sep 2020
—$6.2 billion *
Improbable
London; est. 2012 / adjusted value as of Mar 2020
—$1.5 billion *

Footnotes:

Despite a recent billion dollar valuation, Animoca Brands, may not qualify for this index—having had a previous IPO event, and subsequent de-listing from that exchange.

* 1. ByteDance: GameLook reports 25% of the company revenue comes from gaming. Bloomberg reports shares trading at a $250 billion valuation at the end of March. South China Morning Post reports shares offered at a $400 billion valuation to new investors more recently—but does not confirm transactions closing at that price. For the purposes of this list, Games One features the gaming worth as 1/4 of the the most recent, credible valuation. That number will continue to increase before a final public offering.

4. Valve: in March of 2019, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter valued Valve at $10 billion on behalf of Bloomberg, who then pegged the company estimate to performance of the Russell US indexes subsection for electronic entertainment, for the purposes of estimating the founder’s wealth in real-time. $17.8 billion is the current Pachter-Russell number. Games One neither agrees nor disagrees with that valuation, and presents it un-altered for context.

* 5. ironSource: while the company, as a whole, has a $11.1 billion valuation, the $9.43 billion figure is adjusted to recognize the 85% of company revenue from gaming.

* 6. Smilegate: if the company ever goes public, it is only to add to their prestige. Smilegate has already reached status as a top five game company in Korea. Locals believe the exchange is not currently rewarding game companies as a sector, and Krafton had delayed IPO because of that—if that process is measured in months, then a Smilegate IPO would be measured in years. The market will appreciate in the interim. For the purposes of this list, Games One assigns a valuation to Smilegate, pegged to 50% of the current reported valuation of Krafton. Both firms had the same revenue in 2020, but the operating profits of Smilegate were some 47% of their competitor. That gives a fair market comparable for today, and should be reassessed upon future developments.

* 8. Discord: at the end of 2020, the company had a post-money valuation of $7 billion. In March of 2021, there were reports Discord would be acquired by Microsoft “for $10 billion,” which proved inaccurate. In May of 2021, Sony announced an investment. No terms were disclosed: it could have been at, above, or below, the previous $7 billion number. This list reflects the most credible, likely valuation at the date of publication.

* 13. Techland: in June of 2019, Polish market research firm PMR valued the company at $2.5 billion. PMR’s sector analyst maintains an approximate valuation of $2.4 billion for the company today.

15. Wargaming: in February of 2016, Bloomberg profiled the founder, putting the company worth at $1.5 billion, less than 3x annual revenues. The valuation has not been revisited since. While the fundamentals of Wargaming have not changed significantly since then, the broader value of public game companies has risen in those five years. Games One neither agrees nor disagrees with the estimate, and presents it unaltered.

* 24. Bungie: the company has no public valuation, despite a $100 million investment from NetEase in June of 2018. Without knowing the fundamentals, Games One can reasonably say that, if Bungie were listed on a public stock exchange today, the share price multiplied by number of shares outstanding could reach $1 billion in total value, based on some brand loyalty from the public. If the book value is higher, that has not been effectively communicated to the street or to the industry.

Magic Leap: in April of 2019, the company’s post-money valuation was $6.7 billion. According to PitchBook, institutional shareholders devalued that figure by 93%, and in mid-2020, the company was only valued at $450 million, accounting for a loss of $6.25 billion dollars in worth.

Improbable: in July of 2018, the company’s post-money valuation was $2 billion. It was reported in March of 2020 the company had $500 million in cash, but the original business model failed. While the company continues to post losses, they expect an in-development game to achieve a surprise success and save the company. It’s possible. Games One believes the cash on hand gives them a phenomenal opportunity to transform into a leading acquisition company—building exceptional value through bold M&A strategy. Otherwise, marking down the valuation by 75% may be generous.

Data compiled by Evan Van Zelfden, Managing Director, Games Ône  

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Copyright © 2021, by Evan Van Zelfden. All Rights Reserved.