You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.
Investment and funding
The games industry continues to drive technology advances and attract significant investment in a competitive landscape where there is pressure to innovate and grow.
We support clients with M&A, strategic investments and collaborations, enabling them to realise opportunities in growth areas, consolidate their market position, or acquire tech and talent. We also advise clients across the entire investment cycle – from seed through to IPO and beyond, across all forms of equity and debt finance and in all major markets.
Find out more about our Corporate and M&A, Equity Capital Markets, Leveraged Finance and Investment Funds expertise.
Antitrust and foreign investment
M&A in the games industry faces increased scrutiny from antitrust and foreign investment authorities globally, who have lowered the thresholds for both jurisdiction and intervention. Heightened scrutiny means heightened execution risk for M&A.
We provide clients with a coherent global strategy, critical to navigating merger control and foreign investment approvals successfully.
Find out more about our Antitrust and Foreign Investment expertise.
Until relatively recently, competition class actions were primarily a U.S. phenomenon, but there has been a flurry of recent claims in the UK and the EU against major technology and gaming companies. Claimants are pursuing class actions in multiple jurisdictions with firms willing to pursue novel claims, even without a prior infringement finding by a competition authority. The threat of claims of this nature has created a climate of heightened risk for our clients.
Clients value our expertise in overcoming these challenges — responding to such claims requires a carefully considered strategy to minimise costs, reputational harm, and business disruption.
Find out more about our Dispute Resolution and Investigations expertise and our insights on our Collective Redress blog.
These regulations seek to address issues such as:
In some jurisdictions, specific gaming regulations have also been proposed or introduced, bringing an additional layer of regulation. With increasingly assertive regulatory enforcement and increasing litigation, gaming companies are facing a climate of heightened risk.
We enable clients to navigate the evolving regulatory landscape around the world to build and defend successful businesses by providing advice on regulatory compliance, enforcement and litigation (including class actions). We help our clients reach the next level.
Find out more about our Data, Online Harms, and Antitrust and Foreign Investment expertise and explore our EU Digital Regulation Handbook and our Metaverse blog series.
Data and cyber
Data has never been more valuable. For example, game developers and publishers that can use data analytics and AI to understand a player’s behaviour and preferences can then optimise the gaming experience, improve services and generate new revenue streams. Yet as gaming companies look to commercialise data, they risk regulatory intervention leading to business disruption, or worse sanctions that result in value leakage.
There is an ever-expanding global framework of regulation for data, with gaming companies facing increasingly assertive enforcement, substantial fines and litigation. Further, we expect the development of national and potentially supranational frameworks seeking to regulate global data flows, which impact businesses with international operations.
We work with companies across the gaming ecosystem, advising on a broad range of data compliance issues and providing practical support such as building into games the privacy protections that are required to publish and market games in key markets (including for example, age-appropriate design). We help clients to leverage their data for competitive advantage: protecting their intellectual property, establishing commercial arrangements, and navigating regulations across the globe.
The gaming industry has become one of the preferred targets for cyberattacks, and a lack of appropriate security or even unremedied vulnerabilities within gaming companies’ IT systems can have significant consequences in terms of disruption to the business as well as reputational damage, regulatory fines and litigation.
Clients benefit from our deep experience of advising on:
Find out more about our Data and Cyber Security expertise.
The gaming sector is evolving rapidly with new forms of digital asset and payment offerings emerging. There has been a surge in interest from video game companies in exploring how to enhance their offerings using distributed ledger technology to host gaming applications. This includes facilitating in-game payments through crypto and integrating NFTs in games, which allow players to “play-to-earn” and “play-to-own” in-game assets and to trade them on secondary markets.
We advise game developers including a number of AAA video gaming studios as they explore these opportunities and navigate the applicable law and regulation. This is particularly relevant following a sustained period of market turmoil for digital assets which has resulted in increased scrutiny, regulatory enforcement, and private litigation. We draw on our deep knowledge of digital assets and global market-leading regulatory expertise to provide solutions for our clients pursuing cutting-edge developments.
View our Fintech expertise and our insights in our recent report Crypto and DeFi – Understanding the risk landscape.
In the fast-paced gaming industry driven by technology advances, creative content and continuous innovation, a pro-active intellectual property strategy is key to investing in, protecting and exploiting intellectual property successfully.
Our cross-border IP team advises market leading companies on complex IP-driven transactions and contractual structures, as well as high-profile IP litigation. We advise on the full range of IP rights including patents, copyrights, designs and trademarks as well as personality rights. Our practice also includes related areas such as unfair competition and consumer law.
Many of our lawyers have technical backgrounds and have experience in the gaming industry and therefore bring a deep understanding of complex technologies.
Find out more about our Intellectual property expertise.
We advised Sony on a series of strategic acquisitions in Europe to enhance its mobile and video gaming offerings at a time of significant growth in the gaming industry in Europe and around the globe. Recent transactions include:
We advised a leading global gaming content and technology company and top-tier mobile games publisher, on a number of its strategic transactions, including public and private M&A opportunities, as it expands in key areas such as real money gaming.
This included a particular focus on the talent acquisition and retention elements of the transactions, together with focus on protecting IP and development rights and navigating the complex regulatory environment across multiple jurisdictions.
We advised Caesars Entertainment, Inc. on its agreement to sell William Hill’s (non-US) online and retail businesses to 888, the UK listed online casino brand, for an enterprise value of £2.2 billion. William Hill International is one of the UK’s leading and most trusted bookmakers, with over 1,400 retail betting shops across the UK, and over 1.5 million active UK customers online.
The sale aimed to create a global online betting and gaming leader by combining “two of the industry’s leading brands” delivering significant operating efficiencies including pre-tax cost synergies oft at least £100 million per year, leading to improved margins.
The disposal follows Caesars' £2.9 billion public takeover of William Hill PLC which completed in April 2021 and on which Linklaters also advised.
Advising Microsoft on the US$2.5bn acquisition of the Mojang Group holding the rights to the video game Minecraft. We were lead counsel on this transaction which was one of the first $1bn+ acquisitions in the gaming sector.
We advised PAI partners on its c.€2.75bn divestment of Asmodee, a leading international game publisher and distributor with over 39 million products sold annually in more than 50 countries. Asmodee was acquired by Embracer Group, a global public video game company. As part of the transaction, PAI became a shareholder in Embracer, enabling the firm to retain exposure to the fast-growing gaming and entertainment segments and to benefit from the value creation of the combined new group.
We advised UK-based game developer and publisher Jagex on its acquisition of US development studio Pipeworks Studios — the company's first ever acquisition of an external studio. Our team advised on various aspects of the deal including navigating the foreign investment regulatory landscape.
We advised a consortium comprising the founders of Razer Inc. and CVC Capital Partners on the US$1.38bn management buyout and take-private of Razer Inc. Razer is a world leader in high-performance gaming hardware, software and systems.
Our recent experience includes:
We are advising major US, Chinese and European technology and gaming companies as they address new digital regulation and enforcement across the world’s major economies. Our recent experience includes:
We advised one of China’s top games development and publishing companies which has a particular focus on international markets, on a broad range of GDPR compliance, privacy by design, age-appropriate design and other data protection regulatory issues.
Challenges & solutions
The matter team reviewed existing games which have millions of subscribers and beta-test versions of newer games on mobile app based games software – conducting play-through and surface reviews of the app’s data flows, fair processing information, terms and conditions and access gates for compliance with European privacy regulations. Our advice was key in ensuring the development team based in China could build in the privacy protections required to publish and market their flagship games in one of the company’s largest export markets.
In addition to regulatory reviews of and compliance advice on the games themselves, the team produced a suite of documents to build privacy by design into the processes of the organisation going forwards. The documents embed data protection principles into the technical heart of our client’s organisation, with a focus on practical utility for non-legal audiences made up of software developers without native/bilingual English language skills.
We advised an online luxury fashion retail platform on certain proposed non-fungible token (NFT) offerings, helping them to navigate U.S. federal securities, commodities, financial regulatory, sanctions and consumer protection law risks. These NFT offerings form part a broader aim for the company to leverage the metaverse, alternate realities, digital collectibles and gamification to evolve, achieve brand extensions and elevate the online shopping experience for consumers.
Challenges & solutions
In light of the recent increase in private litigation, enforcement actions and regulatory investigations of entities operating in the digital asset space, the platform sought advice on certain key legal and regulatory risks associated with targeting U.S. customers with NFT-related projects. Our analysis addressed varying potential fact patterns and strategies, including:
We provided guidance concerning the current U.S. legal landscape, including certain key regulatory risks. Among other things, we explained the possibility that, depending upon the relevant facts and circumstances, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) may characterize the offer and sale of NFTs/related digital assets as the offer and sale of securities under U.S. federal securities laws and that, if such a digital asset is deemed to be a security, certain follow-on risks exist for market participants, depending upon their activities, including potentially being deemed to be an unregistered broker-dealer, and investment adviser, an exchange (or a mechanism of an exchange) and so on.
We also proposed a variety of strategies for possible risk mitigation, which included considering the potential feasibility, merits and risks associated with the various approaches.
Because of the depth of our experience advising in the digital assets space, our familiarity with recent crypto market developments and our U.S. regulatory expertise, we were able to produce a comprehensive, practical - and highly current - assessment, not just concerning U.S. federal securities laws, but also a wide variety of other key legal content areas relevant to digital collectibles and other digital assets.
Given the mix of U.S. regulators intensely focused on crypto enforcement and a digital assets market that has become increasingly mainstream, we believe that it is critical for serious market players to understand, beginning at the architectural phases of their projects, the U.S. regulatory risks.
We advised Playtech on its successful defence of an infringement claim relating to a broad patent for online gaming.
Challenges & solution
The claimant had bought the Menashe patent, a well-known patent for online gaming. It related to an “interactive, real time, realistic 'home' computer gaming system using general purpose computers. The system comprises a central or host computer, a plurality of terminal computers forming player stations remote from the host, communicating means for connecting each of the terminals to the host, and program means for operating the computers and the communication between the terminals and host.” The claimant alleged that Playtech infringed the patent.
Playtech argued that the invention claimed in the patent was not new; was obvious; and was not in fact an invention under the UK Patents Act. The technology was, by the time of trial, quite old. The key prior art was relatively old, and by the date of the trial no longer of much interest to gamers.
By careful searching Playtech identified an old game that contained the elements of the claimed invention. In reply, it was argued that the patent was limited to gaming for ‘real money’. Playtech’s expert helped the court understand that this limitation was simply not included in the claims and was only one of the options for implementing the invention. Compelling expert evidence for Playtech helped the court conclude that all Playtech’s arguments were correct – the invention was old, obvious and the contribution made by the patent in suit lay wholly in matter excluded from patent protection.
Our experience in developing the law on objections to patents for business methods was particularly helpful. Unusually in a patent case the loser did not appeal.
Our recent experience includes:
Online platforms are under scrutiny like never before, with a wave of new laws and regulations coming into force across the globe. Online harms is one of the newest frontiers in the trend towards greater regulation of online content. Our online safety team can help you navigate this new regulatory frontier. We can draw upon experts across Linklaters’ international network from a range of practice areas to provide you with the input you need: looking to deploy the insights we have gleaned from similar regulatory regimes and our industry experience to provide you with pragmatic and clear advice.
The EU is pushing through a transformational digital regulation package. However, keeping track of all the new laws in that package is a challenge. Our Handbook provides a short, accessible summary of the status of each law, together with an assessment of comparable developments in the UK.
Disruptive forces are shaping the outlook for 2023, yet technology will continue to be a key enabler for businesses and certain tech verticals will attract significant investment as companies and investors navigate this new market dynamic. In this publication, our tech sector lawyers from around the world explore the key global trends in the technology sector that we believe will shape the legal outlook for businesses in 2023 and beyond.
Through our Contemplating the metaverse blog series, our teams across practices delve into the opportunities and legal risks companies should be considering.
In this report from our global fintech team, we focus on the risk landscape of three significant jurisdictions in the global digital asset market – the U.S., the EU and the UK. We look at the key legal risks associated with dealing with cryptoassets and decentralised networks and the destabilising impact of key market events including major insolvencies in 2022.