As it turns out, the MMO industry is going to see one more big buyout move before 2021 is upon us. Last night, Albion Online studio Sandbox Interactive announced on its forums that it’s been bought out by a company called Stillfront Group AB, a Stockholm-based mobile games publisher.
Sillfront’s own press release says it’s acquiring 100% of the shares of Sandbox from Sandbox’s original four co-founders for a total of €130M (€30M in shares, €100M in cash), with additional earn-out payments over the next four years. €100M is about $122M US, so those four people are going to have a nice Christmas indeed. Stillfront has categorized the purchase as one that will help it “create the leading free-to-play powerhouse of long lifecycle games.”
Sandbox itself has framed the sale for Albion players as a net positive given the game’s rapid growth this year. Devs have also said the four founders are staying with the company.
“For the past eight years, we have been building Albion Online up completely on our own – everything from development, to marketing, translations, customer support has been built up by ourselves. Now that Albion is growing at a massive rate, we realize that being on our own is not always an advantage. There are just too many things we’d have to master, and while we believe no one can develop Albion Online better than we can, there are plenty of areas around the game itself where we could benefit from additional expertise. This is why we decided to join the Stillfront Family. The partnership with Stillfront allows us to remain fully invested in Albion Online and its development, focusing on making the best Sandbox MMORPG experience in the world, while benefiting from Stillfront’s expertise in marketing and publishing to spread the word of Albion Online around the world. For you, the players, this will mean more people to play with, more capacities for development of patches and updates, and simply more Albion Online as we continue to grow the game over the coming years. With this ending to 2020, we’re looking forward to a bright future for Albion Online in 2021 and beyond.”
“There are no changes to our game design plans, road map or vision for the game. The actual Sandbox Interactive team is staying exactly as it is before and all the founders of the company will fully stay on board. Stillfront’s structure and approach is very different from that of other large companies in the gaming space. Their core idea is to identify and acquire gaming studios that are strong on their own and then letting them continue doing what they are best at – making their games – while offering a strong support structure for things such as marketing.”
Worth noting here is that Sandbox’s financials were released by Stillfront as part of the purchase. Sandbox alone apparently pulled in net revenues of 101M SEK (about 12M US, just under 10M EUR) in 2020, which would make it a relatively small slice of Stillfront’s overall revenues.