Chinese-owned Playtika Buys Israeli Firm Jelly Button Games

Gaming giant reportedly paid tens of millions of dollars for maker of casual games

Playtika offices in Herzaliya, Israel, July, 2016.
Ofer Vaknin

Playtika, the gaming company acquired by Chinese interest a year ago for $4.4 billion, bought Jelly Button Games, a fellow Israeli company, on Monday as it seeks to expand into casual and mobile games.

Playtika declined to say what it paid for Jelly Button Games, whose portfolio includes Pirate Kings, a game that allows players to conquer islands in search of gold and revenge, but it is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

“This is most natural and truest tie-up we could make. The minute we told our employees everyone was excited,” said CEO Ron Saranga, who founded the startup in 2011 with Ron Rejwan, Alon Lev, Mor Shani and Moti Novo.

The company raised $1.5 million four years ago, as it was about to launch Pirate Kings, which has enjoyed relatively big success – 80 million users in 100 countries generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

TheMarker has learned that Jelly Button Games had recently begun talks with investors about raising another $10 million round but Playtika offered to buy out the company instead at about the same valuation as the fundraising.

Playtika was also formed in 2011 and today employs 1,600 people, a quarter of them in its Herzilya office. Jelly Button Games is the 10th acquisition for the company, which has built its games portfolio through in-house development and by buying other companies, and it probably won’t be the last.

“There are a lot of companies developing games in Israel and we have been following many of them for some time,” said Playtika Chief Financial Officer Arik Sandler.