Last year, the gaming giant Zynga began operating under the radar in Israel and even recruited its first local employees. Today (Monday) it becomes clear that Zynga is making another significant move, opening a new research and development center in Israel, after completing an acquisition of an Israeli startup.

50 employees join the company, and more are on the way

Zynga announced today (Monday) that it has completed the acquisition of the Israeli startup Storemaven, which develops a system that helps companies and gaming developers increase the number of installations of their games, optimize games, perform A/B tests, and increase revenue from those games. The company's system can flood different ideas and versions of the app and game pages in app stores so that ultimately the developers can increase their conversion rates. All 50 Storemaven employees will join Zynga and will actually be part of the first research and development center of the gaming giant in Israel, which plans to continue expanding.

Storemaven's exit is interesting for several reasons: firstly, since its founding in 2015 it operated completely on a bootstrap modal, so only the company's employees and founders will receive money from the acquisition – the amount of which was not disclosed. In addition, this is the second exit for Gad Maor, CEO of Storemaven, who also founded Shaker, a company that tried to make a kind of MetaVerse even before Mark Zuckerberg knew what it was. In 2016, Maor achieved his first exit when Shaker was sold to PlayStudio, the American mobile game giant. Maor served as VP of R&D and Marketing at Shaker before its acquisition and went on to become the founder and CEO of Storemaven, so this is his second exit in a decade.

In a response to the acquisition, Maor said: "Zynga has a long-standing culture of innovation and data-based decision-making. Zynga's global deployment and great ambitions in the field have made them a valuable partner for us... I could not be prouder when I look back at everything, we have been able to achieve at Storemaven in recent years, on a technological and business level. I'm excited to continue leading the company within Zynga and take off with the games we've dreamed of. With perfect timing, we are given the opportunity to create an organization that thinks differently and to build a model company in Israel.”

Yaron Liband, Vice President of Zynga's gaming division, added: "Israel is a hotbed of technology and innovation. This acquisition allows Zynga to make a mark in the region and continue to develop and build technologies and capabilities that will give us opportunities to use the many talents of the Israeli high-tech community."

Not just Zynga

It seems that Zynga is trying to create an internal ecosystem for the production, distribution, and publication of mobile games, and to achieve that, they have acquired not only Storemaven, which will help its games stand out in the app stores, but also Chartboost, which is developing a publishing and monetization system for the mobile sector. American Zynga became famous mainly thanks to the hit game FarmVille which drove Facebook users crazy in 2009, gaining millions of daily users within a few weeks. Farmville wasn't Zynga's only or last hit, with games like Zynga Poker, Words with Friends, Mafia Wars, Cafe World, and many others leading to its 2011 Nasdaq IPO, and a market value of around $9 billion.

The purchase of Storemaven is not Zynga's first purchase in Israel. In 2015, the company announced the acquisition of the Israeli Rising Tide Games, which developed social-casino games and was founded by former Playtika executives and Maytal Olsha, who worked at Zynga before that. According to some estimates, Zynga was supposed to leverage the purchase to open the first research and development center in Israel, but that never happened. With the acquisition of Storemaven, the company officially announces its entry into Israel.

Zynga's entry fits like a glove in Israel, which has become a gaming power in recent years – especially in the fields of mobile and social casinos. According to a report published recently, 75% of the Israeli gaming industry develops social and casual games, which are responsible for approximately 4% of downloads worldwide, and for approximately 7% of all Israeli exports – and this excluding the companies that provide supporting services to the gaming industry, such as AppsFlyer, ironSource and, of course, Storemaven. But Zynga is no longer just Zynga, as it was acquired by Take-Two last May for more than $12 billion.

Take-Two is responsible for some of the biggest brands in the gaming world such as Bioshock, Borderlands, Mafia, 2K Games and huge companies like Rockstar which brought us GTA and Red Dead Redemption. It will be interesting to see if Take-Two's indirect entry into Israel will eventually lead to the integration of Israeli teams in the development of AAA games or indie games, perhaps expanding and taking the local industry past the mobile and casino worlds.