Scopely Acquires PierPlay as Video Game Market Surges Amid COVID-19 Lockdown

Scopely, the Culver City-based mobile games unicorn, announced Tuesday that it has acquired the game development studio PierPlay, also based in Culver City. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The deal culminates a close partnership that began in 2016 when Scopely turned to PierPlay to help develop a Scrabble game to compete with with Zynga's popular Words with Friends, an off-brand word game that Hasbro has been trying to shut down since it launched in 2009.


Scrabble GO launched in 150 countries last month, becoming the biggest word game launch ever, though it still trails Word with Friends on Apple's app store.

"Our goal is always to have the best team in the world build a game, where it's internal or external," Tim O'Brien, Scopely's chief revenue officer, told dot.LA. "We knew these guys were a great team. We were always planning on acquiring the studio."

O'Brien says the deal was underway long before the coronavirus, but a pandemic that has everyone stuck at home and only able to connect with friends virtually is ideal for the addictive Scrabble GO and Scopely's larger portfolio, which has seen revenue increase 10% since before the virus.

"The timing couldn't have been better for us to launch," said O'Brien. "People are downloading more games and playing games longer. For a game like Scrabble GO that's highly social and highly competitive, it's the perfect game right now for people to play."

One concern is that Scopely makes a substantial amount of money from advertising, which is threatened as struggling companies reduce their marketing spend. But O'Brien says rates have already recovered after a brief dip last month.

Before the pandemic sent workers home, many of PierPlay's 25 employees were already working at Scopely's headquarters on a new game that has yet to be announced. PierPlay co-founder and Chief Executive Lorenzo Nuvoletta will continue to manage the game studio.

"The success we've seen with Scrabble GO has been amazing and we look forward to tackling more exciting projects in the development slate," Nuvoletta said in a statement. Scopely says more than 2.5 million people are playing Scrabble GO daily, with the average session lasting over 100 minutes per day.

Scopely is currently valued at $1.9 billion, according to Pitchbook data, and has 800 employees. Last month, it raised an additional $200 million in Series D funding, doubling the total round to $400M.

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It's almost 90 degrees outside in Los Angeles as lines of cars pull up to Dodger Stadium, home to a mass vaccination site that opened Friday.

"Please make sure that they're not under the sun in the cart," Edith Mirzaian is telling a volunteer as she directs the person to put ice packs on coolers that hold up to 20 COVID vaccines. Mirzaian is a USC associate professor of clinical pharmacy and an operational lead at one of California's largest vaccination sites.

Dodger Stadium alone — once the nation's largest COVID-19 testing site — is slated to vaccine up to 12,000 people each day, county and city health officials said this week. Officials plan to finish vaccinating some 500,000 health care and assisted care employees by the end of this month before opening appointments up to people 65 and older.

Mirzaian is desperately trying to make sure that the vaccines don't spoil.

"We have to be the guardians of the vaccine," she said.

Earlier this month, hundreds of vaccinations were lost after a refrigerator went out in Northern California, forcing the hospital to rush to give out hundreds of doses. Mirzaian's task tells a larger story of the difficult and often daunting logistical process required to roll out a vaccine that requires cold temperatures.

"You know they can't be warm so just keep an eye out," she gently reminds the volunteer.

The volunteers and staff from USC, the Los Angeles Fire Department and Core Laboratories prepared enough doses to vaccinate around 2,000 residents on Friday and they plan to increase capacity each day after.

Local health officials are holding the vaccination syringes in coolers after they leave the air-conditioned trailers. The coolers are then covered in ice packs and wheeled on carts to clinicians administering shots to health care workers and nursing home staff eligible under the state's vaccination plan.

"Vaccines are the surest route to defeating this virus and charting a course to recovery, so the City, County, and our entire team are putting our best resources on the field to get Angelenos vaccinated as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible," said mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement announcing the plan.

Health officials around the world are racing against time as the virus mutates and poses greater dangers.

"We have a little bit of borrowed time here right now because these variants are not here in great numbers from what we can tell," said Susan Butler-Wu, an associate professor in clinical pathology at USC's Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Curbing the spread of the virus is a vital way to prevent mutant strains from developing, she said.

Mirzaian, who arrived at the site before it opened at 8 a.m., said that there were logistical challenges as volunteers scrambled to assemble what will likely be the hub of the region's vaccination efforts.

"It's challenging to make sure that everyone knows what the process is and what we're doing and what to tell the patients who receive the vaccines."

After a few hours, the procedure moved quicker.

Residents have to show identification and proof of employment before they're taken through a list of pre-screening questions and given the vaccine through their car window. They're required to then wait for 15 minutes while clinicians monitor them for side effects.

Mirzaian said the process took each car about an hour. While eligible residents can walk-in for vaccinations, she recommends they make appointments so that enough doses are made available each day.

"As long as people have their appointments, they will get in," she said. "We are ready. We are like an army ready to give vaccines."

Snap promoted executive Ben Schwerin to be its new senior vice president of content and partnerships, as the company seeks to grow its content business to challenge rival TikTok.

As part of the reorganization, Chief Strategy Officer Jared Grusd, who previously oversaw content, will become a strategic advisor to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel.

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As a casting director, Lacey Kaelani has a leading view on Hollywood's content pipeline. Based on what she's been seeing on her venture-backed casting platform, Casting Depot, prepare for a deluge of unscripted shows.

"It's all gonna be handheld videos where everything looks like a Zoom call," she said. "Dating shows, talk shows, food competition shows – that's what was cast and is going into production."

The Casting Depot launched its latest beta version on Friday, with a "six-figure" investment from global venture capital firm Antler. Its board includes leaders from companies including CAA, Airtime, iHeartMedia, WorkMarket and IAC.

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