French video game publisher Nacon has just announced the acquisition of Big Ant Studios, creators of the Don Bradman Cricket, Cricket 19 and AO Tennis sports games, for a “maximum price of” $54.8 million.
The total acquisition price is a little malleable, according to the official release. In the terms and conditions, Nacon has agreed to pay a net price of 15 million euros net cash and debt when the deal is signed, with another earn out payable after March 31, 2024:
The acquisition of 100% of the share capital and voting rights of Big Ant will have an overall maximum price of 35M€ on the basis of :
– a net price of 15 M€ (net of cash and debt) in cash upon signature;
– an earn-out payable for 50% in cash and for 50% through the creation of new Nacon shares, based on performance until March 31, 2024.
Financing aside, the deal is probably the most significant and sizeable acquisition of an Australian studio in recent memory. Interestingly, Big Ant is aiming for $9.4 million in operating profit for 2021-22 — notable only because it’s quite rare to see the financials of any Australian game dev studios, given most of them aren’t publicly traded companies.
The terms of the deal say “net of cash and debt”, but Big Ant CEO Ross Symons told Kotaku Australia that the studio “has no debt and significant cash in the bank”. “This will result in a payment well in excess of the 15 million euros,” he said.
Symons added that the deal has come together “in weeks, not months” and was borne out of their partnership with Nacon in developing Tennis World Tour 2 and AO Tennis 2.
“Nacon pitched the acquisition as an extension of that positive approach to partnering that our two companies have enjoyed so far, and that they would support our vision to transition to AAA and become one of the world’s leading sports games developers, all while allowing Big Ant to remain autonomous but being able to lean on the resources that Nacon can provide,” Symons told Kotaku Australia.
The deal will help Big Ant “tackle new sports properties and expand the scope of the licensors that we work with,” according to Symons.
Nacon’s release notes that the company’s 9 development studios publish “AA games”, rather than AAA titles. It’ll be interesting to see a Don Bradman Cricket or an AO Tennis with a vastly bigger budget. One obvious area of expansion for Big Ant would be with their cricket titles: they haven’t to date fully replicated the drafting and franchise elements of the Indian Premier League, and having an expanded budget and support would undoubtedly help in those talks.
Big Ant has released racing, rugby league and AFL games in the past, and it’ll be interesting to see if this deal enables them to venture more into those sports as well.