Epic Games, maker of the money-printing hit “Fortnite,” is buying Tonic Games Group, parent company of Mediatonic, best known for the wildly popular “Fall Guys.” The purchase also includes Fortitude Games, a niche developer that launched in 2018. Terms weren’t disclosed.
For Epic, the acquisition continues an incredible run that has left it with few equals in the gaming world.
Last year, PC gamers spent over $700 million at its Epic Games Store, and in December the store had over 56 million monthly active users. In August, Epic announced it had raised $1.78 billion at a $17.3 billion valuation. The funding included $250 million from Sony.
In 2019, Epic bought Psyonix, maker of racing/soccer hybrid “Rocket League,” and social video app Houseparty. It’s not alone in buying up gaming companies.
In September, Microsoft shelled out $7.5 billion for ZeniMax Media, parent company to Bethesda Softworks. Bethesda makes hits like “Fallout” and “Doom.”
Electronic Arts bought Codemasters, known for its racing games, for $1.2 billion last December.
In February, HP said it plans to acquire HyperX, which makes headsets, USB microphones, and other gear targeted at gamers, for $425 million.
Meanwhile, Epic continues its legal slugfest with Apple and Google in European courts. Apple and Google delisted “Fortnite” from their app stores after Epic introduced a way for gamers to pay the company directly, circumventing each tech giant’s 30% transaction fee.
On Feb. 17, Epic Games announced it had filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple in the European Union.
The company is not taking on the tech titans alone. Microsoft threw its support behind Epic, seeking to prevent Apple from blocking use of Epic’s Unreal Engine, a game creation platform used by Microsoft, among many others.
Shannon Sharpe Poised to Hit TV Free Agency
Photo: Fox Sports/Design: Alex Brooks
Fox Sports management has an important strategic decision to make before the next football season — and not just about NFL media rights.
Shannon Sharpe’s current contract expires after July 2021, sources told Front Office Sports. The question now is whether Fox will compensate the three-time Super Bowl winner similarly to his controversial “Undisputed” co-host Skip Bayless.
Sharpe earns about half of Bayless’ annual salary, said sources.The Pro Football Hall of Famer makes an estimated $3 million-plus annually vs. around $6 million for Bayless, the reigning enfant terrible of morning sports TV.
Many would argue the funny, outspoken Sharpe has become as big a TV draw as Bayless, and the 52-year old’s social media following is now equal to that of the 69-year old Bayless.
“Shannon’s become a star in his own right. And do you really want to be paying a Black man half what his white co-star’s making?” said a source.
Sharpe’s been a loyal partner to Bayless, signing an extension of his original contract in September 2019. Bayless signed a contract extension with Fox last fall. If Sharpe does end up leaving Fox, sources peg former ESPNer Emmanuel Acho as a possible sparring partner for Bayless on “Undisputed.”
During previous contract negotiations, FS1’s executive vice president of content Charlie Dixon told FOS he’d be “mortified” if Sharpe left the network.
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Elevating the Game
The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship gets underway this week at the historic Atlanta Athletic Club. Sei Young Kim returns to the field after a dominating performance in 2020 where she won her first LPGA major and set the championship scoring record.
With one of the highest purses in women’s golf, the tournament is a celebration of women who are champions both on and off the course. This year’s field includes KPMG ambassadors Mariah Stackhouse, the first woman of color with full-time status and Leona Maguire, who is on track to quality for the upcoming Olympics.
Catch these and other female superstars at the top of their game as live coverage begins Thursday, June 24 on NBC at 12PM ET.
theScore Raises $186.3M Through IPO
Photo: theScore/Design: Alex Brooks
Canada-based digital media company theScore announced the closing of its Class A shares following its first public offering in the U.S.
Listed on the Nasdaq, theScore sold 6.9 million shares at $27 per share, bringing gross proceeds to $186.3 million. That includes the 900,000 shares sold to underwriters exercising their over-allotment option, a group led by Morgan Stanley.
Part of the proceeds from the offering will be allocated to the continued growth of the company’s sports betting operations in the United States and Canada.
Company founder John Levy started theScore as a television network but sold the TV assets in 2012 to deliver a digital sports media website and app.
The company has continued to gain traction due to its sports betting and esports products. It became the first media company in North America to create and operate a mobile sportsbook in the U.S., and its esports platform has more than 1.6 million YouTube subscribers.
The decision to go public came as theScore suffered financial losses, like many sports-driven companies during the pandemic. Total revenue for its fiscal 2020 amounted to $20.7 million compared to $31.1 million for the same period the year before.
Olympic Sponsors, Athletes Face Dilemma
Photo: IOC/Design: Alex Brooks
Sponsors and athletes of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are being placed in an increasingly difficult position when it comes to speaking out on current events in China.
Companies partnering with the Olympic Games have been under pressure to discuss alleged human rights abuses — including claims of genocide — against Muslim Uighurs, Tibetans, and other minorities in China. There were similar reports when the city hosted the Olympics in 2008.
“China has no genocide, period,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian. But critics and activists believe otherwise, and they’re putting the heat on sponsors like Airbnb, Coke, Visa, and others.
“Airbnb describe themselves as a company that talks of having ethos,” Blair McDougall, campaign director for Stop Uighur Genocide told the Associated Press. “So far they have ignored us.”
Despite the turmoil, the International Olympic Committee’s price to sponsor the games continues to rise. Sponsors account for 18% of the IOC’s income — each pays at least $1 billion — and almost all the rest comes from broadcasting rights.
Athletes don’t have a clear path forward, as speaking out comes with the potential threat of losing a spot on one of the world’s biggest competitive stages.
After four years as a brand ambassador for Huawei, FC Barcelona and French national team forward Antoine Griezmann cut ties with Chinese tech giant Huawei in December, citing “strong suspicions” the company had contributed to atrocities against Uighurs.
In a statement to the Associated Press last fall, the IOC said it “has neither the mandate nor the capability to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country.”
Celebrating the Next Generation of Female Leaders
Some of the world’s leading golfers competed for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship title last week. Mariah Stackhouse’s historic comeback performance earned her the title and also the first woman of color to win a major (and in front of her hometown crowd!)
Proceeds from Championship week fund the KPMG Future Leaders Program, a charitable initiative focused on developing the future generation of leaders. Awarded annually to twenty-two top female high school seniors, the program provides the opportunity to enhance personal growth through college scholarships, a leadership development retreat, mentorship, and introduction to golf.
Learn more about the program and get a reminder when applications are available this fall.
Real Salt Lake’s soccer stadium is looking for a new name, and Visible Supply Chain Management may be the suitor. The company is considering an offer from RSL for naming rights to the stadium currently sponsored by mining group Rio Tinto.
Aston Martin F1 struck a multiyear deal with British cloud software and data management company NetApp. The company will use data to gauge on- and off-track performance for Aston Martin while also aiding with strategy decisions and car refinements.
The Minnesota Timberwolves surpassed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for worst all-time winning percentage in men’s major American sports. The franchise has won just 39.3% of all its games. Get more stories like this in The Association — a free, daily NBA newsletter. Click here to subscribe.
Four champions, three title fights: Blachowicz vs Adesanya. Nunes vs Anderson. Yan vs Sterling. Stream UFC 259 live Saturday, March 6 on ESPN+. Prelims at 8PM/ET and Main Card at 10PM/ET.*
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Question Of The Day
Will you be watching the KPMG Women's PGA Championship