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

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

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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Good News Piles Up for VinFast

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

Slate grey Vinfast car

VinFast, a Vietnamese electric vehicle startup with headquarters in Singapore and Los Angeles, is gathering serious momentum in the United States. In the last 7 days the company has announced a partnership with Taiwan-based solid state battery company ProLogium, opened 6 stores in California, and secured $1.2 billion in incentives for a manufacturing plant in North Carolina.

The partnership with ProLogium comes in the form of a memorandum of understanding, and an investment from the EV hopeful valued in the “tens of millions” of dollars. The memo outlines a business structure that gives VinFast priority to purchase ProLogium’s solid state battery packs and ancillary technology.

ProLogium will produce the solid-state batteries in one of its Asian manufacturing facilities, and—if all goes well—the batteries could be available in VinFast electric vehicles by 2023. A successful partnership could put VinFast on pace to be the first EV manufacturer with solid state battery tech in their cars.

The battery’s technical specifications have not been released —but solid-state technology offers myriad advantages over traditional lithium-ion architecture. Benefits include faster charging, better thermal properties, and potentially higher range. If the company can deliver on a 2023 timeline, they may be the first to market, ahead of hopefuls such as QuantumScape, Solid Power, and Mullen. The race is on. Stay tuned.

VinFast opened six stores this week in California, with locations in Santa Monica, San Mateo, La Jolla, Los Angeles, Berkeley, and the Bay Area. The showrooms are stocked with the company’s first two EV’s, the VF 8 and VF 9. Why the numbers start at 8 is anyone’s guess, but the VF 8 is a 5-seat AWD SUV with an expected range of just over 300 miles and a price tag starting at $40,700. The VF 9 is a full-sized SUV with 3 rows of seating, a max range of 369 miles, and a base price of $55,500.

VinFast showrooms will also likely serve as a forum for the company to explain its confusing battery leasing program. Yes, in addition to the sticker prices listed above, buyers will need to lease the battery packs for their cars. As Forbes reported:

The basic plan comes in at $35 a month for the VF 8 and $44 for the VF 9. Motorists will get up to 310 miles of free use each month. Motorists who go above that will pay an additional 11 cents per mile for the VF 8 and 15 cents with the VF 9. An alternate, all-you-can-drive plan will run $110 a month for the VF 8 and $160 for the VF 9.

VinFast’s good week was capped by the announcement that the company had secured $1.2 billion in incentives from the state of North Carolina to build a factory in Chatham County — the largest economic incentive package in state history. VinFast is planning for the plant to cover 2,000 acres, allowing for production of up to 150,000 vehicles per year. Construction is scheduled to start before the end of 2022 and production may come online as early as July 2024.

Feds Investigate Tesla Crash that Killed Retired California Couple

Steve Huff
Steve Huff is an Editor and Reporter at dot.LA. Steve was previously managing editor for The Metaverse Post and before that deputy digital editor for Maxim magazine. He has written for Inside Hook, Observer and New York Mag. Steve is the author of two official tie-ins books for AMC’s hit “Breaking Bad” prequel, “Better Call Saul.” He’s also a classically-trained tenor and has performed with opera companies and orchestras all over the Eastern U.S. He lives in the greater Boston metro area with his wife, educator Dr. Dana Huff.
Interior view of Tesla car

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has begun an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Lompoc, CA retirees Mary Lou Seelandt, 66, and her husband, Karl Seelandt, 67. The couple died July 6 at a Florida rest stop after their 2015 Tesla plowed into the rear of a parked semi.

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