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A bigger bite: Sharkmob talks about its acquisition by Tencent

Sharkmob is the latest games company to have been acquired by Chinese internet behemoth Tencent.

The studio was set up in the Swedish city of Malmö by ex-Hitman and The Division developers from IO Interactive and Ubisoft Massive back in March 2018. Many of these senior developers have been working for a decade or more in the industry and are looking to use that experience on a new multiplayer title based on a ‘cult classic’ IP, they announced back then.

Now that Tencent has entered the game, the studio will continue to work on its secret title, but also take on “several new projects” with the Chinese firm, the team said when the acquisition was announced last month. Sharkmob’s CEO Fredrik Rundqvist (pictured top) answers our questions about the studio’s new partnership with Tencent.

Sharkmob was founded by triple-A veterans with a desire to get closer to games with smaller teams but now has a staff of over 50 and has been acquired by a giant – how do you reconcile these two aspects of your identity?

We share the view that a high level of autonomy and creative ownership is a necessity for developing great games. At the same time, to be launching and operating multiplayer games on a global scale, you need a strong partner, and Tencent is one of the biggest tech and internet companies in the world. So we see it as getting the best of both worlds.

 

How and when did your conversation with Tencent started?

We have been keeping in touch over the years, and at some point it started to get serious. Even though we are a very small company and they are a very large company, there is a lot of common ground in the way we view online games and the future of gaming in general.

We really clicked on a personal level, but the business rationale is great. We get to retain creative control and at the same time we can access their vast resources and knowledge. There is so much we can learn from them, and it will speed up our evolution.

Will the acquisition have a creative impact on your work?

It is still early days for us. But they are very supportive and trying to help us with the knowledge and resources they have.

The Sharkmob team in its office in Malmö, Sweden

How important are acquisitions for the growth of a studio? Do you think you couldn’t have gone further without Tencent’s investment?

Well, growth in and of itself is not a goal for us. We just want to be able to produce our games with as high a level of quality and precision as possible. Being part of Tencent does give us a significant boost though – that’s for sure!

What are the main advantages of being part of the Tencent family? Will that facilitate partnerships with other European Tencent-related studios – Fatshark, Frontier, Supercell, Paradox, among others – and is that something you’d be interested in?

There are a lot of things to learn from all these great companies, and I would certainly be open to different levels of collaborations. And as we already working with Unreal Engine it is great to get a closer relationship with Epic.

Very social, very competitive, multiplayer: these are the three terms you use to describe the type of games you love and want to make. Do you believe these games represent the future of the games industry?

There will always be room for great single-player games, no doubt about it. We love multiplayer though and that segment is literally booming right now. It has taken the industry from a mass-market type situation to super mass-market. Being able to play with whoever you want, whenever you want, on any number of platforms is an idea close to our hearts so that is what we are pushing for. That’s where we see our future.

How is Tencent going to help you with that objective? What support can they provide?

Tencent is leading in terms of online, crossplay gaming with a huge player base of monthly active users. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience in user behaviour, trends and market development. All of this is immensely helpful for our developers when working on our projects. Beyond that, there is also the technical side of backend systems, servers, and so on, that allow us to run the games. Few companies in the world can rival Tencent in these areas.

About Marie Dealessandri

Marie Dealessandri is MCV’s senior staff writer, having joined the publication during its days as a weekly magazine. After testing the waters of the film industry in France and being a radio host and reporter in Canada, she settled for the games industry in London in 2015. She can be found (very) occasionally tweeting @mariedeal, usually on a loop about Baldur’s Gate, Hollow Knight and the Dead Cells soundtrack.

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