By the company’s own estimation, the purchase makes Ubisoft the fourth largest mobile games publisher in the world, when judged by the total number of downloads across all of its owned and published mobile titles.
Founded in 2014, Ketchapp fills the casual gaming niche on the iOS App Store and Google Play with mobile apps like Jelly Jump, ZigZag, and Gravity Switch. The studio produces new games frequently, and many feature simple pick-up-and-play mechanics aimed at casual players.
Ketchapp earned a degree of notoriety when it released a clone of the popular tile-sliding puzzler Threes in 2014. Ketchapp’s own take on the concept, 2048, dialed back its difficulty significantly and was released as a free browser game, winning it a large fan following despite protests from Threes studio Sirvo.
Ketchapp continued to clone popular mobile apps and game concepts in the months afterward, leading to the release of titles like the Flappy Bird spoof Run Bird Run and the Monument Valley-inspired Skyward.
Ubisoft’s Ketchapp purchase arrives as the publisher attempts to fend off a hostile takeover from French media conglomerate Vivendi. Vivendi previously purchased the Ubisoft-owned mobile studio Gameloft, and it’s likely that this week’s Ketchapp acquisition was a strategic move intended to bolster Ubisoft’s financial standing while reestablishing its foothold in the mobile games marketplace.
“With Ketchapp, Ubisoft acquires a highly profitable publisher with a successful portfolio of free-to-play games for mobile,” Ubisoft Mobile executive director Jean-Michel Detoc stated this week. “This acquisition gives Ubisoft one of the world’s leading mobile game publishers and reinforces our advertising capabilities in mobile gaming.”
Developers negatively impacted by 2048 and other Ketchapp clones don’t share Detoc’s enthusiasm, however.
“I have mixed feelings about this, obviously,” Threes designer Asher Vollmer stated in response to this week’s Ketchapp buyout. “But Ketchapp releases a tiny mobile game a week, which fills a Very Real Need people have.”
Vollmer continued: “It’d be cool if their games were mechanically & ethically higher quality tho.”