Worms creators Team17 has secured 16.5m in funding from private equity firm LDC and has acquired The Escapists franchise.
We speak with CEO Debbie Bestwick to find out what this means for one of the UK’s longest running games studios.
What makes this deal work for Team17?
We have a successful business, and like all successful businesses we are ambitious and are always striving to do things bigger and better. This investment allows us to accelerate our plans for growth more easily and without impacting on any areas of the current business.
It was not a decision that was taken lightly as we pride ourselves on being independent. LDC are a minority partner and having an investor who is based in the same country is equally important.
LDC shares our vision and understands the importance of people and the way our incubation program and our business models work. I believe it’s fair to say that we have the same common goals about creating successful IP and supporting new and established studios to become sustainable businesses that will become long term partners with Team17.
Your press statement talks about global aspirations, how does this investment help that?
We have stated previously we want to build an international label. Currently we have partners in Australia, North America, across Europe and the rest of the world. Team17 have a well-established and respected name. However we are still building the name in association with our games label. It’s time we took the great work we are doing on our games label to the next level.
It’s just over two years since we announced we were looking for third party partners. At the time I said that we wanted to disrupt traditional publishing. Our label is, and always will be, something that’s created by games creators for games creators. I think it’s fair to say what we have achieved in such a short time is phenomenal. This deal will help to extend our reach and, step by step, expand our horizon by working with more developers around the world.
"Team17 and LDC have common goals: creating succesful IP and supporting studios to become sustainable businesses."
Debbie Bestwick, Team17
Are there any areas of your business that you’re specifically looking to grow? Or are there new areas you’d like to move into?
There will not be any crazy diversification. Anyone who knows Team17 or works with us knows we are super focused. This is all about acceleration of our plans and working with the right people, games and production values.
In terms of further acquisitions, what are you looking for?
While it is too early to get into details, our philosophy remains the same. We look to partner with great people making great games. It does not matter if it’s your first game or you are a veteran developer. If the idea is great, commercially viable and you are as focused as we are, then we want to talk to you.
We have clearly demonstrated our ability to help games makers from all walks of life create commercially and critically successful new IP like The Escapists, Sheltered, Beyond Eyes and Overcooked. This is still our core objective and it can be achieved via acquisition, via partnership or game funding. We will evaluate any potential opportunity individually on its own merits and see what is best for all parties.
So what is it about Mouldy Toof Studios and The Escapists that make it a good fit for Team17?
The Escapists was one of our first label signings and our partnership is incredibly special. Our collaboration has always been a fundamental part of the commercial success that was achieved. Chris [Davis], besides being the creator and founder of Mouldy Toof, is a very good friend and label partner who shares the same vision and values we do. Personally, it’s one of my proudest achievements seeing what the game and team have achieved together. Those combined factors made us decide to move forward with the acquisition and I’m delighted to welcome Mouldy Toof to our immediate family. It’s far too early to get into details about the franchise long-term but I can assure fans this game is incredibly close to everyone’s heart at Team17 and Mouldy Toof.
Can we now expect buying and developing your own IP to take precedent over signing third party deals with indie studios?
This allows us to expedite our growth on an international level and it’s why my management team and I remain the majority shareholders. If anything it’s going to allow more opportunities for our games label. Our label is the very essence of who we are collectively today.
Additional acquisitions may happen, but it’s not something that’s a priority, and it’s not an automatic process. We talk about the importance of independent developers retaining IP and building for sustainability, that is and always will be our message. Likewise, with developing internal IP, we have a very talented studio, so I would not exclude new IPs. We are game makers at heart – we are passionate about making games, not just publishing.
What message do you hope this investment will send about the state of the UK games industry?
A good strong positive message that our industry is doing well. This is LDC’s first investment in the games industry. That is testament to just how successful Team17 have been over recent years. Our business and games label is built on original IP – that’s hard to achieve in a tough industry.
The UK has always been strong in terms of making games, but we are far from a global player in terms of publishing – at least not since Eidos. Is it the aim of Team17 to change that?
We’re very ambitious, but right now our focus is on the next part of our journey and it’s very important we do this our way. We think very differently from traditional publishers and work completely differently to all I know. Do we want to become a new Eidos? No, we want to become known and respected for the success we deliver for our partners. Team17 as a games label is working with some amazingly talented people who create original IP. We have a responsibility to protect, nurture and help our partners on their journey as they grow: this is the reason we consider ourselves unique.
Will you be seeking more investment?
We don’t need additional funding for our current plans. However, if the opportunity arises and there is a funding requirement, we believe we already have a great partner in LDC.
Do you have a financial target you need to hit in terms of revenue?
We have always had revenue and profit targets – past, present and future – these are self-imposed target’s based on our own personal ambitions for Team17.
What is the long-term vision for Team17 now?
Globally we strive to be recognised as the best games label for independent games. We’ve set goals consistently over the last six years since the MBO, and every single one we have achieved years ahead of schedule.
We will be judged on the success of our partners and that’s exactly how we like it.
(Below: Team17’s CEO Debbie Bestwick)