NBC fund, GMT buy German game developer for €70m

The network’s Peacock Equity Fund and GMT Communications Partners have purchased a majority stake in Hamburg-based Bigpoint, which will produce games for NBC-affiliated websites.

NBC Universal and General Electric’s joint private equity arm has teamed with GMT Communication Partners to purchase German online videogame developer Bigpoint for €70 million ($109 million).  

The deal, expected to close within two months if approved by German regulatory authorities, represents London-based GMT’s foray into online multiplayer gaming, a particularly hot sector among venture capital and tech-focussed private equity firms.

“We see that online gaming is the area of online content for which people have the highest propensity to pay,” Natalie Tydeman, a senior adviser for GMT, told PEO. “Of people who play games on the internet, 40 to 50 percent will pay to play those games.”

Tydeman said that Peacock Equity Fund and GMT will share equal equity stakes in Bigpoint, which currently boasts over 23 million registered players for its 20 free multiplayer games.  

Started in 2002, Bigpoint relies on a “free use, voluntary payment” monetization model in which players are allowed basic free use of games but can purchase virtual goods and special game features with a premium subscription.

Some of Bigpoint’s most popular multiplayer titles include “Seafight”, a role playing game involving pirates, and “XBlaster”, in which futuristic robots fight with sci-fi caliber artillery.

Bigpoint also offers more adult-oriented games including “The Pimps” and “Mafia 1930”.  Asked if GMT was concerned that Bigpoint may encounter increased criticism for such content after the deal with NBC, Tydeman said that those games were not a major concern, as they comprise just a small slice of Bigpoint’s online portfolio and that users must be over 18 to play those games.

A spokesman for Peacock Equity confirmed that Bigpoint will produce original games for NBC affiliated-websites such as those for Sci-Fi and USA Networks. The games’ content and characters will mirror those of various NBC Universal shows.

Launched in April of last year Peacock Equity, a $250 million global capital fund co-founded by GE Commercial Finance and NBC Universal, has already completed four publicly-disclosed deals. Prior to Bigpoint, Peacock Equity’s largest investments included $7.5 million in online game advertiser IGA Worldwide and another $7.5 million to web search engine Healthline.

Traditionally telecom-focussed GMT made the Bigpoint investment from GMT III, which Tydeman said was roughly 50 percent invested.

The last few months have witnessed several high-profile private equity deals for online gaming companies. Earlier this month, Lombard Investments bought an $11.7 million minority stake in Thailand-based game developer Asiasoft.  In a similar deal last October, Provident Equity Partners invested $300 million in ZeniMax Media.