Dublin’s Keywords Studios buys Fire Without Smoke for £5.2m

30 May 2018

Players at an e-sports tournament. Image: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

One of Europe’s fastest-growing video game empires is headquartered in Dublin and is eyeing up opportunities in e-sports.

Dublin video game developer Keywords Studios is continuing its rapid expansion with news that it has acquired London games developer Fire Without Smoke for £5.2m.

Headquartered in London and with a studio in Montreal, Fire Without Smoke provides a full suite of creative and marketing services to game publishers and developers, creating assets such as game trailers, marketing art and materials for e-sports events. It also provides marketing consultancy and general design services to the video game industry.

‘E-sports tournaments can play a significant role in influencing the success of event and game launches’

Keywords will pay £3.85m in cash – with £500,000 deferred for a year – and will issue 77,006 shares to Fire Without Smoke’s founders – Will O’Connor and Michael David Thomson – and others.

Fire Without Smoke was founded in 2013, employs 40 people, and is expected to generate revenues of £2.8m and gross profits of £700,000.

One of the Dublin tech scene’s best-kept secrets

Headed by Andrew Day, Keywords Studios was established in Dublin in 1998 by Giorgio Guastalla and Teresa Luppino. It works on video game development for multibillion-dollar gaming giants such as Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, Warner Bros, Riot Games, Sony, Supercell, Take-Two, Ubisoft and Nintendo.

The AIM stock exchange-listed company has more than 42 facilities in 20 countries worldwide.

In its most recent financial results, Keywords Studios reported a 57pc rise in group revenue to €151.4m and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) of €26.3m, representing a margin of 17.4pc.

In 2017 alone, Keywords made 11 acquisitions worldwide, including the acquisition of VMC in October for $66.4m to give it leadership in functional testing, and the acquisition of Sperasoft in December for $27m.

Recent titles worked on include Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Mortal Kombat X, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Battlefield 1, Overwatch, World of Warcraft: Legion, Hearthstone, Clash Royale and Mobile Strike, to name a few.

“Fire Without Smoke’s specialised offering represents an excellent addition to the group’s existing capabilities and adds some exciting new services to our global service platform,” said Day.

“Their high-end video game trailers expertise will be of great interest to Keywords’ large client base, as will their broad suite of creative services, which range from marketing strategy to providing marketing content for events including e-sports tournaments, which can play a significant role in influencing the success of event and game launches.

“We are delighted to welcome the talented and passionate teams of Fire Without Smoke to the Keywords family as we continue to build the business in London, in Montreal and in other Keywords locations around the world.

Updated, 9.38am, 30 May 2018: This article was updated to include Teresa Luppino as co-founder of Keywords Studios.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years