Glu Mobile: Word-class Mobile Gamemakers
A game is an entirely free exploration of freedom in a limited setting.
Games are a favorite pastime for many people, and since we always have our phones around, mobile gaming quickly became one of the fastest-growing segments of the gaming industry.
Today, mobile gaming is a competitive field, and companies are constantly working on being the best and dominating the market. However, Glu Mobile was one of the first companies to provide entertaining phone games that players loved.
The company didn’t always start out by that name. Initially, Scott Orr founded Sorrent, a mobile game design company, in 2001. At the same time, Kristian Segerstrale and Sebastien de Halleux created mobile game developer Macrospace. Once these two merged to make Glu Mobile, they created the biggest dominating force on the market.
Let’s delve deeper into how the founders started Glu Mobile games - a global phenomenon in the mobile gaming world.
Start of the Journey: Early Days and Education
Scott is by now a veteran of the gaming industry with over 3 decades of experience. However, he started as just an ambitious kid looking for his passion and goal in life. In 1974, he enrolled at the University of California, Riverside.
While at university, Scott kept himself busy with various activities he was passionate about. He was a member of the Highland Clan, a UCR student orientation group, and business manager of the school newspaper.
During this time, Scott also discovered how much he enjoyed leading and taking the initiative, as he became a founding member of the Rho Upsilon Chapter of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
In 1978 he graduated with a BA in Political Science but stayed in school for 2 more years to also earn an MBA in Marketing.
After university, Scott jumped straight to work in game publishing. He built up a company specializing in sports games and worked there as VP and lead designer. Scott sold the company to Activision in 1986 and kept working within the branch until 1988. His experience and expertise also allowed him to work as a consultant for other gaming companies.
In 1990 Scott was hired by EA to redesign the game John Madden Football. He played a key role in developing Madden NFL Football which proved to be a success. After this, Scott worked for EA full-time and oversaw the Madden NFL franchise for the following decade.
After years at EA, Scott resigned in 2001 to pursue other goals, specifically mobile game development. Later that same year, he founded his own company called Sorrent, an abbreviation for Scott Orr Entertainment.
This company would manage to break into the gaming industry and largely dominate it in only a few years. Eventually, Sorrent became Glu Mobile, but not before it found the other piece of the puzzle – Macrospace.
The Europe Branch: Macrospace Founders
Sebastien and Kristian are somewhat younger, but by now, they’ve both developed successful decades-long careers in gaming and have a track record of impactful businesses. Yet it all started out in 1994 when the pair met during their high school years.
They both attended United World College-USA but afterward temporarily parted ways to pursue higher education. Kristian earned an MA in Economics from Cambridge in 2000 and later an MS from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Meanwhile, Sebastien attended undergraduate studies at the Université Catholique de Louvain until 1997. After this, he studied at Imperial College London and got a master’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2001.
Once they finished their studies, the pair got together again and founded Macrospace – a mobile content developer headquartered in London, UK. It wouldn’t be too long, though, before the company merged with Sorrent to make something way bigger.
Coming Together: Forming Glu Mobile
California-based game developer Sorrent rapidly grew and eventually acquired its European competitor Macrospace in 2004. This was one of the biggest mergers the mobile gaming industry had seen, resulting in the formation of a huge global company with access to a distribution network of 90 mobile carriers.
Although Sorrent was doing exceptionally well in the US market, the acquisition allowed them to expand to Europe and Southeast Asia, where Macrospace was a well-known and successful brand.
Both companies had valuable partnerships and licensing agreements. Macrospace had partnered with brands like Cartoon Network, Square Enix, and Eidos, while Sorrent worked with Atari and FOX Sports.
Once the two rivals merged, they created a new company that went under the name Glu Mobile. The same year of the merger, Scott left his CEO position and started looking for new ventures.
Financial details of the acquisition weren’t disclosed. However, Macrospace kept the same management team.
Glu Mobile Financials and IPO
Glu Mobile’s founders and the entire team are no strangers to handling a company’s finances. Originally, Sorrent had secured an initial seed investment from a senior executive at NEA, one of the valley's leading venture capital companies. Before Sorrent merged with Macrospace, it raised more than $44 million over four funding rounds.
At the end of 2006, a bit unexpectedly, Glu Mobile announced its plans to go public. The company may have been a new name, yet it was still one of the biggest players in the mobile game industry, with more than 100 titles under its belt.
In March of 2007, the firm made its initial public offering and was listed on the Nasdaq with the symbol GLUU. Initially, Glu Mobile had hoped to raise $92 million, but it was a bit short on that number. Yet, the company still saw great success from this step.
At IPO, Glu Mobile raised $84 million and was valued at $327 million. The proceeds were used to propel the company forward – they served as working capital and were used to pay off debt.
After this, the company has also had several post-IPO equity funding rounds. Most notably, in 2015, the Chinese company Tencent purchased a 15% stake in Glu for $126 million.
Acquisitions and Growth
Glu Mobile, as it was an amalgamation of both Sorrent and Macrospace, already had a large portfolio and a solid amount of titles under its belt. Yet, the company now picked up speed and started releasing more than ever before.
Glu acquired Chinese game producer MIG in 2007, which was only the beginning of its domination over the mobile games industry.
Over the years, Glu acquired multiple companies and franchises that enabled and helped the company to grow and expand. This included many competing firms like Superscape, PlayFirst, Cie Games, and CrowdStar.
Further Expansion and Joining EA
Although eventually, all of the Sorrent and Macrospace founders moved on to other ventures, Glu Mobile continued its success thanks to their early guidance. The company offers a diversified portfolio that spans all genres and user groups, utilizing both licensed and original IPs.
Glu Mobile works on a freemium business model, in which players receive the game for free but are required to pay real money to unlock certain features. These microtransactions play a big role in funding the company and further game development.
The company fosters an inclusive environment that encourages equality, cultural understanding, and respect by establishing policies, perks, training, hiring, and recognition procedures.
In April 2021, EA completed its acquisition of Glu Mobile for $2.1 million in enterprise value. This would set up Glu with a powerful parent company that could successfully oversee all its future growth and expansions.
Glu Mobile’s Road Ahead
With a decades-long history, Glu's culture is built on taking calculated chances and encouraging innovation to give players top-notch interactive experiences.
The mobile gaming market is the epitome of a developing, dynamic sector with picky consumers and shifting platforms. The present degree of success for Glu is the consequence of an agile management style and a good sense of foresight.
Glu Mobile is a massive success story of talented entrepreneurs who created something amazing. Although none of the original founders are still with the company, they still keep busy with game development and start-up ventures. Yet, that’s just the life of an entrepreneur – always moving on to the next big project.
As for Glu Mobile, it continues its successful streak, maintaining its currently popular titles and always looking to create something new and great. Wherever the road leads the company, given its track record, it’ll surely be yet another success!