Jagex, the British developers of veteran fantasy MMO RuneScape, have announced their acquisition by a potentially surprising new owner: the private equity firm best-known for owning major sports brands including Six Nations Rugby, Spanish football league LaLiga, French football governing body Ligue de Football and the Women’s Tennis Association. The deal was reportedly closed for almost a billion pounds.
Jagex confirmed their sale to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, who apparently own around €188 billion worth of assets, and fellow investors Haveli Investments – who have previously invested in studios including Dead by Daylight creators Behaviour interactive – following reports last September that current owners The Carlyle Group were looking to sell the Cambridge-based studio after acquiring them in 2021. Before that, Jagex very briefly passed through the hands of US global management company Macarthur Fortune Holding in 2020, having been variously owned by Chinese and US investors for the previous eight years.
Of course, Jagex have been kicking around for a lot longer than that, marking their 25th anniversary this year. RuneScape itself was launched in early 2001, and has gone on to see multiple iterations, a split into the modern game and Old School RuneScape, and even a move into the world of board games and tabletop RPGs.
Although Jagex have developed and published a number of other games over the years, from a RuneScape card game spin-off to RTS games and looter-shooters, none have recreated the success of their flagship MMO. According to Jagex, RuneScape has made over $1.5 billion during its lifetime, bolstered by record numbers of subscribers last year.
Jagex have themselves acquired several companies in recent years, notably Pipeworks Studios and Gamepires, developers of multiplayer survival game Scum. Having been in early access since 2018, Scum is planned for a 1.0 release later this year – something originally due in 2021.
While Jagex, CVC and Haveli didn’t disclose the specifics of the deal, Sky News had recently reported that the studio’s price tag had been set at £900 million.
Naturally, the companies’ statements regarding the deal painted it as a great move for everyone involved, with Jagex CEO Phil Mansell saying that the acquisition would “will help Jagex build on our portfolio of forever games, furthering our aims of supporting and growing our community of forever fans. Together we’ll create more of the experiences our fans love, innovate to empower our players further, and build new forever games that capture imaginations.”
Still, with 700 people employed by the studio across the world and the current state of things in the games industry – not in small part due to other acquisitions by multibillion conglomerates – it’s hard not to feel at least some trepidation about yet another enormous sale taking place.