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Borderlands 3 from Gearbox, a studio purchased in February for $1.3 billion. Screenshot: Gearbox

There were more than 1,100 acquisitions, investments and other financial deals in the games industry in 2021, making it a “landmark year for gaming,” according to a new report by industry tracker Drake Star.

Why it matters: Gaming’s COVID-driven player boom in 2020 was followed by an investment boom a year later, resulting in an industry flush with people who want it to thrive.

The numbers: While many deals don’t have dollar amounts tied to them, the report says disclosed deals totaled $85 billion. A partial breakdown:

  • $38 billion in mergers and acquisitions, including the voracious Embracer Group’s 22 deals in 12 months (beating out Tencent’s 16)
  • $13 billion invested in private companies, including $1 billion in Epic last April and from $100 million to $200 million to new studios That’s No Moon, Probably Monsters and Splitgate creators 1047 Games.
  • $3.6 billion went to Blockchain/NFT companies, including Animoca’s Sandbox, play-to-earn sensation Axie Infinity and Forte, which recently announced a partnership with Zynga.

The big picture: The volume and scale of the deals point to where gaming is heading.

  • Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda, which was announced in 2020 and closed in 2021, paved the way for Xbox’s aggressive 2022, which is set to be capped with Bethesda’s signature exclusive game Starfield, meant to sell Xbox and its range of gaming services.
  • In 2021, mobile studios were the favored target for acquisitions — and that’s before 2022 started with Take-Two’s $12.7 billion bid for Zynga.
  • But the largest amount of disclosed private investment went to blockchain companies. That tracks with the idea that blockchain gaming is being driven by startups and companies outside gaming’s establishment.

The bottom line: All these deals show excitement, but they don’t inherently augur success.

  • For all the money poured into VR gaming over the past decade, that sector is still awaiting its breakthrough moment.
  • It's also worth noting that the biggest gaming hits can come from small teams, though it helps to have a huge backer. See: 2021 breakout Valheim, an upstart Viking game made by five people whose studio is partially owned by the massive Embracer.

Go deeper

Jan 14, 2022 - Economy & Business

Crypto jobs surge as money pours into the industry

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Cryptocurrency-related job postings in the U.S. surged 395% between 2020 and 2021, per a new LinkedIn report.

Why it matters: Job growth in crypto dramatically outpaced the wider tech industry, which saw a 98% jump in postings in the same period.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker

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