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Mergers: Stronghold and IBC Form Indie Game Studios, Greater Than Games to Acquire Cheapass, Asmodee Also Buys Something

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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• I missed a lot while I was at Gen Con 2018, and what I didn't miss, I mostly didn't have time to write about. Too much work in too little time, followed by a week of crunching SPIEL '18 info for that convention preview.

In any case, let's get to some of the industry news that emerged from Gen Con 2018, starting with the merger of Stronghold Games and Indie Boards & Cards to form Indie Game Studios, self-described in the press release as "one of the largest hobby board game companies in the world". Travis Worthington of IBC will become CEO of Indie Game Studios and oversee the operations of all three studios within this new entity — and I say three studios because Stronghold Games, Indie Boards & Cards, and Action Phase Games (which IBC bought in 2016) will each maintain their own brands, with Worthington continuing to serve as President of IBC and Action Phase and Stephen Buonocore continuing as President of Stronghold Games. Why merge if brand are remaining distinct? To quote from the press release:

"I am delighted to join forces with Stronghold Games," said Travis Worthington, CEO of Indie Game Studios. "Stephen is a tremendous individual that has grown a loyal following over the past decade and we've had a long running relationship of working together over the years. Our skill sets are very complementary, and I look forward to even greater growth as we work together as one team in the future. The timing was critical for both our companies. As the industry consolidates around a few major corporate players, we needed to get bigger in order to compete as an independently owned creator of the world's best board games."

"We have entered a new era in the hobby board game industry," said Stephen M. Buonocore, President of Stronghold Games. "We cannot simply operate as we did 10 years ago. To grow our business, we must acquire 'mindshare' via increasing visibility of our brands, additional customer focus, and hiring new talent. This merger will do exactly this. Indie Game Studios will allow us to increase our global reach, better fulfill gamer needs, and enhance our product development efforts throughout all of our brands. Indie Game Studios is uniquely positioned as an independent entity, ready to battle the giant corporate owned conglomerates of the hobby board game industry."

Buonocore will now serve as spokesperson for all Indie Game Studios brands, while Nick Little of IBC is being promoted to Vice President of Game Development and Manufacturing. A final bit from the press release: "There will be no changes to the Distributor or Retailer terms and conditions for any product lines as a result of this merger."

• In less publicized merger news, during Gen Con 2018 Greater Than Games announced that it would acquire Cheapass Games, with the merger likely being completed in early 2019. I haven't seen a press release from either company yet about the merger, but rather I ran into people during the show who had been authorized to release news about this acquisition. No details yet about whether the Cheapass Games brand will remain active in the GTG catalog, but I've previously spoken with GTG personnel about them trying to consolidate their BGG publisher pages to emphasize the company as a whole, so we'll see.

• In the regularly scheduled "Asmodee buys something" section of these round-ups, we have the announcement on August 1, 2018 that the Asmodee Group has entered exclusive negotiations to acquire Brazilian publisher Galápagos Jogos.

Galápagos Jogos was founded in 2009, and its press release announcing the impending acquisition notes that it's Brazil's largest modern board game company, with a product line that already includes many titles released by Asmodee-owned and -distributed brands, such as Star Wars: X-Wing, Ticket to Ride, Dobble, Dixit, and 7 Wonders. To quote more from the translate press release:

Since 2013, when [Galápagos Jogos] started to market its first international games titles, the company had an increase of 800%.

With more than 60 lines of board and card games, the company's success follows the industry's global advancement, which is considered one of the fastest growing segments in the entertainment industry.

"Our purpose of bringing people together through a fantastic entertainment experience is strengthened even further now that we are part of Asmodee. The passion for telling incredible stories is the main factor that unites us. We are very proud to join such an experienced and capable team, "said Yuri Fang, president of Galápagos Jogos.

Interest in Brazil is part of the French group's strategy to consolidate its global presence. This will be its first operation in Latin America. Asmodee has offices in 14 countries: the United States, Canada, Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and China. In addition, there are 13 game development studios around the world. Currently, the company distributes its products to more than 50 countries in the world.

The group, established in 1995, sells 34 million games a year, launches 300 new products, and recorded a turnover of €442 million in 2017.

"After five years of a successful partnership with Galápagos in the distribution of our games in Brazil, we are very happy to have them in the Asmodee family. We fully rely on the Galápagos team to further increase our presence in the market and build our platform in the country, "said Stéphane Carville, president of the Asmodee Group.
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