Middlesbrough games developer SockMonkey Studios has been acquired by Behaviour Interactive, Canada’s largest video game studio, for an undisclosed sum.
The deal provides an exit for NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), and which achieved a fourfold return on investment.
Following a £250,000 investment in 2020, Mercia recruited industry figurehead Ron Ashtiani as chair.
Since then, SockMonkey has almost tripled in size, with staff numbers rising from 18 to 45.
It has also worked with some of the leading publishers and brands including tinyBuild, Sumo Digital, SEGA and Paradox Interactive, creating games such as Tinykin, Little Orpheus and Kill it with Fire.
Most recently it developed the first video game based on the CoComelon in collaboration with Moonbug.
SockMonkey was founded in 2013 by Teesside University graduates Darren Cuthbert and Bob Makin, who set out to create a “superstudio” in Middlesbrough.
They were joined by Darren Falcus, co-founder of Optimus Software, one of the first video game studios on Teesside, which was sold to US company Acclaim Entertainment.
The trio will stay on in their current positions and help to continue SockMonkey’s growth in Teesside. SockMonkey is Behaviour’s first European investment and will be renamed Behaviour UK – North.
Will Clark of Mercia said: “SockMonkey are a talented team who have been playing a key role in building Middlesbrough’s profile as a hub for the games industry.
“Since our initial investment three years ago they have grown rapidly and have firmly established their position as one of the UK’s leading games studios.
“The acquisition will enable them to continue their growth as part of a larger business and benefit from Behaviour’s global network.”
Bob Makin, SockMonkey’s co-founder and CEO, said: “We’re thrilled to celebrate our tenth anniversary year by joining Behaviour’s growing group of studios.
“Behaviour is rapidly emerging as a global player within the gaming industry, and we are proud to represent the first step in their European expansion.
“We look forward to leveraging their resources to grow Behaviour UK – North, provide further career opportunities for the UK’s exceptional talent, and establish the Teesside area as a hotbed for game development.”
Ken Cooper, Managing Director at British Business Bank said: “The acquisition of SockMonkey is a testament to the growing reputation of Middlesbrough as a hub for digital developers.
“This exciting move puts the town on the global map of the gaming industry and will attract even more investment and attention to the creative work being done by Northern game studios. NPIF funding continues to be available for these growth businesses.”
The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.