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In the years I've covered the gaming space, one thing has become very clear to me: it's not that hard to have one big, hit game, but it is difficult to have a second one. Games also seem to have a relatively short self-life; they can be the biggest thing in the world one month, and be forgotten the next. I've seen it happen over and over.
That's what happened to Plain Vanilla, the studio behind social quiz app QuizUp. The game was a major success right out the gate, but once it faded, the company went with it.
Now it's being rescued by Glu Mobile, a developer and publisher of free-to-play games for smartphone and tablet devices, which has acquired Plain Vanilla, it was revealed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The acquisition price was just $1.2 million in cash, a low sum considering that Plain Vanilla had raised over $40 million in funding.
One of the investors in the company had been Glu, which, in January, invested $7.5 million in promissory notes convertible into a minority equity stake in the company. In the SEC filing, Glu said that "agreed to forgive and cancel $7.5 million in aggregate principal amount of convertible promissory notes," as well as any interest, "only if QuizUp has been published on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store through the Glu Games Inc. publishing account."
Based in Reykjavik, Iceland, Plain Vanilla is the developer behind QuizUp, which has more than 40 million registered users and 5 billion games played.
Launched in November 2013, QuizUp says that it "became at the time the fastest growing app on the App Store ever." According to data from App Annie, QuizUp was the number four most popular game in the App Store in March of 2014, but the numbers soon began to slip. Except for resurgence in popularity in May of last year, the game faded away. It fell out of the top 500 games in March of 2016.
As a result, Plain Vanilla was forced to shut down in August, laying off all 36 of its employees, while CEO Þorsteinn B. Friðriksson left the company. At the same time, NBC which had been on working on a television version of the game for almost two years, also announced that the idea was being shut down.
QuizUp continued to be available, though, now that it's part of Glu, it's unclear who, if anybody, from Plain Vanilla will be coming to work at the new company, and what Glu's plans are for the future of the game and the studio. VatorNews reached out to Glu and Plain Vanilla for further comment, but neither company was available at this time. We will update this story if we learn more.
A trivia game seems to be something of a departure for Glu, which is better know for it's celebrity-based games, most notably Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, as well as games with Britney Spears, Nikki Minaj, Jason Statham, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Gordan Ramsey and Katy Perry.
Glu's other games include Tap Sports Baseball 2016, Cooking Dash 2016, and Racing Rivals.
In addition to the acquisition, Glu also revealed in its SEC filing that it has increased the size of its Board of Directors from eight to nine by adding Nick Earl, Glu’s Chief Executive Officer. Earl was named CEO of the company in early November.
Other investors in Plain Vanilla included Tencent, IDG Ventures, BOLDstart Ventures, e.ventures, Crunchfund, and CAA Ventures, among others.
The SEC filing was first uncovered by GamesIndustry.biz.
(Image source: quizup.com)