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Gaming studio Nordeus acquired by Take-Two Interactive in a huge exit for Serbia

Branko Miluntinović, CEO and co-founder of Nordeus
Image credit: Branko Miluntinović, CEO and co-founder of Nordeus
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Serbian mobile games developer Nordeus has been acquired by the American video game holding company Take-Two Interactive. The acquisition may account for up to $378М –  one of the largest deals for the Serbian gaming industry. Nordeus received $225M, consisting of cash, and $90 million in newly issued shares of Take-Two Interactive. The Belgrade-based studio will be paid additional earn-outs on the condition it achieves pre-determined EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) results in the next two years. The founding team of Nordeus will continue to run the company.

A large-scale gaming success

Nordeus was founded in 2010 by Branko Milutinović, Ivan Stojisavljević, Tomislav Mihajlović, and Milan Jovović. The startup quickly grew to become one of the biggest companies in the local gaming sector. Currently, it has a team of more than 180 developers from 22 countries. The flagship gaming project of the company is “Top Eleven” – a mobile soccer game that has over 240 million registered users. “Top Eleven” was named “the world’s most successful mobile soccer management game” by AppAnnie as of April 2021. Another well-known product of Nordeus is the Facebook Messenger game Golden Boot, played by over 65 million users. It was nominated for Best Instant Game in Facebook’s Game of the Year 2017.

Nordeus is also active in supporting the Serbian gaming community. The Nordeus Hub, which is under the umbrella of the mobile games developer, has been invested in creating an online Serbian gaming ecosystem. It provides developers with a range of free courses and programs. Nordeus also stood behind the Digital Serbia Initiative and is part of the Serbian Games Association. After its acquisition became public, the startup announced it is launching a foundation with an initial budget of $3M to impact education within Serbia. As part of Take-Two Interactive, the startup will continue developing soccer-related mobile titles and technology.

Take-Two Interactive’s acquisition strategy

Headquartered in New York City, Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. is a developer, publisher, and marketer of interactive entertainment. In 2020 the company has a revenue of $3.09 B.

The acquisition of Nordeus is Take-Two Interactive’s latest strategic initiative to expand its mobile business. The American company acquired two other gaming startups – Social Point (developer of World Chef, Dragon City, and Dragon Land) and Playdots (developer of the mobile games Dots, Two Dots, and Dots & Co.) in 2017 and 2020, respectively. The Nordeus deal is the largest of the three investments made by Take-Two Interactive. In comparison, the American video game holding company acquired Social Point for $250M, while the Playdots deal amounted to $192M. 

The state of the Serbian gaming industry

The deal will impact the development of the Serbian gaming ecosystem. Currently comprising around 120 companies, studios, and indie teams, the local gaming sector has seen steady growth in the earnings, generated by developers. In 2020, the total revenue amounted to around €120M, an increase of €60M, compared to 2018. The number of employees in the sector has also increased from 1325 in 2019 to 1431 in 2020. As noted by the Annual Gaming Report for 2020, published by the Serbian Games Association, this can be attributed to the increasing number of opportunities, offered by companies from the ecosystem. 

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Viktoria is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive and a sophomore-standing student at the American University in Bulgaria. Combining her Business Administration studies while mapping the Southeastern European startup ecosystem is a positive-sum game for her as she has the chance to interact with the most active entrepreneurs in the region. Her favorite topics include venture capital structures, investments, as well as innovations in the scitech and fintech sectors.