Billionaire Gaming Brothers Are Now Tencent’s Biggest Rival

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(Bloomberg) — The coronavirus pandemic has created a new gaming giant, boosting the fortune of its two founding brothers.

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Thanks to a rush of new gamers, Playrix has become the world’s largest mobile-game developer after Tencent Holdings Ltd., according to researcher AppAnnie. Its founders and sole owners, 38-year-old Igor and Dmitry Bukhman, 35, have more than doubled their wealth and are now worth $3.9 billion each, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

That didn’t happen by accident: At the height of the health crisis, as companies cut down on advertising, the mobile-game developer took advantage of lower ad prices to increase its marketing. Monthly users surged 50% to 180 million at the peak of the outbreak, and sales jumped about 60% to $1.75 billion in the first eight months of the year, the company said. The number of gamers has since stabilized at 150 million monthly.

“Successful games have become long-term services similar to Netflix, which manages to retain users by constantly adding new content,” Igor said in a Skype interview from London, where the brothers live. “We are constantly adding new stories, different game mechanics and levels to our games, and people are playing them for years.”



Explosive Growth


© Bloomberg
Explosive Growth

Julia de Macfarlane-Smith is among those who got hooked during the pandemic. After clicking on an ad in February, she soon started spending as much as six hours a day playing Gardenscapes and about 50 pounds ($64) in a month to get through levels faster. The match-3 puzzle game is one of Playrix’s most popular.

“It made life indoors not so boring,” said the 42-year-old stay-at-home mom from Gloucestershire, U.K. “I don’t know how many hours a day I would be playing if the pandemic had never happened, probably much fewer.”

Listed gaming companies from China’s