“Star Trek,” “The Walking Dead” and “Wheel of Fortune” are more than just iconic TV brands; they’re the intellectual property powering mobile games on course to reach $100 million each. And they’re all produced by Scopely, a Los Angeles-based video game business led by co-CEO Walter Driver, who has made a specialty of adapting from one medium to another.
“Originally people thought of mobile game licensing as an ancillary revenue stream for traditional IP holders,” Driver said on the latest episode of the Variety podcast Strictly Business. “In the last five years, that thinking has evolved dramatically. And we’re fortunate to work with partners who have been really strategic about how they are thinking about the digital expressions of their brand.”
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Top-grossing games at the eight-year-old company include “WWE: Champions,” a puzzle-matching role-playing game; “The Walking Dead: Road to Survival,” an RPG based on the hit TV show; “Wheel of Fortune Free Play,” a casual/word puzzle title.
The success of “Fortnite” validates the mobile-friendly, customizable, free-to-play model where Scopely has been active. Drivers points to the emergence of the battle-royale gaming genre as a $20 billion business that didn’t even exist three years ago. “It shows there are going to be new categories of gaming that are created in very short periods of times that are bigger than entire segments of media within a couple of years,” noted Driver.
Scopely has raised over $260 million from venture capital and individual investors including Tom Staggs (former COO of Disney); Jim Gianopulos (CEO of Paramount); Peter Chernin (CEO of the Chernin Group); Peter Guber (CEO of Mandalay Entertainment); Jon Schappert (former COO of Zynga and Electronic Arts); Dave Dorman (former CEO of AT&T); Jimmy Iovine (co-founder of Beats by Dre and Interscope Records); and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Past episodes include conversations with Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Dana Walden, co-head of 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Television Group. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.