Nifty Games, sports-centric mobile startup, has netted a $3 million investment

Startup features experience at Telltale, Konami, LucasArts, MadCatz and more.

Startup mobile publisher Nifty Games has received an investment of $3 million, the company has announced.

Specially focused on sports games for mobile and digital platforms at an audience aimed at sports diehards, this round of seed funding for the newly-formed company was provided by VC firms March Capital Partners and Defy.VC, as well as esports and games-based investor aXiomatic Gaming.

“We’ve built Nifty Games to create innovative sports games for today’s sports fans. The talent and experience on the team is second to none, and we believe our unique product direction and focus on quality will deliver a step change in mobile gaming to sports fans worldwide,” said founder and CEO Jon Middleton.

“It’s a great vote of confidence to have the support of such highly regarded investors in our initial equity financing. With investment from team owners from all five major North American pro sports leagues, as well as successful game industry leaders and institutional tech investors, we’re off to a great start.”

Mobile publishing can be difficult enough, what with the volatility of the market, but publishing sports games on mobile is a big question-mark. But sports, as it turns out, is in their blood. "Our initial decision to focus on sports games was driven out of personal desire to build games we love," Middleton told GameDaily over email. "Pete and I are both avid sports fans, fantasy sports fanatics, and sports gaming has always been a passion for each of us from our earliest days as gamers."

More than the personal draw was good business sense. "... there’s great advantage in focusing so intently on sports games and the fans that play them," Middleton explained. "In short, entertaining crowds of fans, young and old, keen to experience more of the sports they play on the weekends and follow day in and day out as part of their lifestyle was a good bet."

“We’re thrilled to invest in Nifty Games as they aim to capture the attention of traditional sports fans who have become disengaged and frustrated with the current state of sports simulations in video games,” continued Gregory Milken, managing director of March Capital Partners. “We see the tremendous value in offering an engaging mobile gaming experience that features short session arcade play along with the sports that players love.”

aXiomatic Gaming CEO Bruce Stein added the collaboration between it and Nifty would “combine” both companies “extensive experience in gaming with our group’s expertise in traditional sports, esports and entertainment.”

"The investment from aXiomatic is an exceptional opportunity for Nifty Games," Middleton noted. "As an investor they’re pretty selective. Not simply from a financial return standpoint, although that was obviously a consideration, they’re analysis was focused on how their unique experience could benefit the business. As a team, they’ve had incredible success in professional sports, esports, technology, entertainment and finance.

"It’s obvious that they’re a group we can learn a lot from as we build Nifty Games product line and business. We’re excited to have them as a lead investor. Esports is an obvious growth category and we have some great advisors to help us navigate. That being said, Nifty Games sole goal is to make the most fun mobile games for sports fans."

Nifty’s management team has incredibly heavy experience from elsewhere before joining up at the company. Middleton has previous history at peripheral firm Mad Catz; Chief Product Officer, Pete Wanat, is a former VP of production at Universal’s games division that helped release Despicable Me: Minion Rush as the fifth most downloaded game ever; Head of Production, Dan Wasson, has spent twenty years at various leadership roles at EA, Konami, LucasArts, Wargaming, and Kaboom.

Meanwhile, Head of Marketing, Jenny Lin, has a past at EA, ABC/Disney, THQ, and Jam City to help release games for The Simpsons, Family Guy and UFC. Finally, as a 20 year veteran of games and tech, Interim CFO Kathy McElwee has had time at Telltale Games, Firewatch developer Campo Santo and 3DO.

Updated 11/29/2018

Johnny Cullen is a freelance writer who has written for the likes of Eurogamer, VG247, Official PlayStation Magazine UK and so many more since 2009. Come talk his ear off about The Last of Us or Metal Gear Solid 3 being the best games ever on Twitter @JohnnyCullen.