‘Surgeon Simulator’ maker Bossa raises Series B led by China’s NetEase

'Surgeon Simulator' maker Bossa raises Series B led by China's NetEase

“Surgeon Simulator,” the surgical simulation game from London-based developer Bossa Studios.

Bossa Studios

Bossa Studios, the video game developer behind zany titles like “Surgeon Simulator” and “I Am Bread,” has raised up to $30 million in an investment round led by Chinese gaming company NetEase, three sources familiar with the matter told CNBC.

The U.K.-based publisher secured between $10 million and $30 million in a Series B funding round over the summer, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the details haven’t been made public.

NetEase confirmed that it was a shareholder in Bossa but was not immediately able to comment on the value of the deal. A spokesperson for Bossa said it had “no comment to make at this time.”

Founded in 2010, Bossa has become known for its comedic games that put users in control of everything from a doctor undertaking heart surgery to a slice of bread trying to get into a toaster. It often employs physics-based controls too, making gameplay just that little bit more complicated.

Some of those games have racked up millions of dollars in sales as well as millions of views from people who watch others playing them online. Six years on from its release, Bossa’s most popular title “Surgeon Simulator” still accrues over 10 million views a month on YouTube.

Though the company is much smaller compared to established players like Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, its deal with NetEase could help it scale and take on one of the biggest gaming markets in the world.

In Bossa, NetEase finds an upstart in the gaming world that has managed to use internet virality to its advantage, while NetEase gives Bossa a clear path into the Chinese market. A key purpose of the recent fundraising effort will be to fuel an expansion into China, sources told CNBC.

Bossa’s first round of funding was a $10 million investment led by Atomico, the venture capital fund set up by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom. The Series A round was also backed by games industry-focused investor Makers Fund. Prior to that, Bossa secured seed funding from another gaming-themed investor, London Venture Partners. The latest capital injection means the firm has raised at least $21.4 million from investors in total, according to Crunchbase data.

NetEase has previously worked with Mojang, the Swedish game developer owned by Microsoft, on launching a version of “Minecraft” in China, while Activision Blizzard has also worked with the firm to bring its digital card game “Hearthstone” to the country.

Bossa has an unorthodox approach to game development. Rather than assigning a team to take control of the creative process, the firm relies on employees who take part in so-called “game jams” every month to come up with new titles.

One of its more recent strategies has been to rely on players themselves to participate in and provide feedback for its games. “Worlds Adrift,” an adventure game first introduced by the firm in 2017, allowed users to build islands for their characters to inhabit — however that game was shut down earlier this year.

Another initiative from the developer, Bossa Presents, allows people to play prototypes for free, provide feedback and decide which games they want the publisher to make first. One of the games tested in the scheme, “Pigeon Simulator,” let users play as pigeons that can defecate on human victims in a virtual city.

Bossa was also among the first game makers to launch a title in Apple’s cloud gaming service Apple Arcade. It released “Hogwash,” a multiplayer title that pits a farmhand against a group of mischievous pigs, on the game streaming platform earlier this year. Sources told CNBC that the company intends to eventually bring the game to China.

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