Phoenix Labs, the developer behind the free-to-play online monster slayer Dauntless, has been acquired by publisher Garena. Based in Singapore, Garena publishes popular mobile games like Call of Duty: Mobile, Arena of Valor, League of Legends, and Free Fire, which Phoenix Labs says was “the most downloaded mobile game of 2019.”
According to Phoenix Labs CEO Jesse Houston, Garena has already been an investor in the company for a long time now, and he considers the publisher “a close partner.” Houston says that Phoenix Labs’ acquisition will allow the team to focus on adding more content to the game, including new Behemoths, weapons, and game modes. He also notes being able to expand to new regions and platforms, which makes sense given that Garena already publishes lots of successful mobile games in Asian markets.
Houston went into more detail on the deal in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz. There he explained that he considers mobile “the next frontier” for Phoenix Labs, and partnering with Garena wasn’t just a matter of needing to sell the company to whoever was making an offer. According to Houston, Phoenix Labs is actually doing well at the moment, and he wanted to sell the company when things were going in the studio’s favor so that it could choose the best company to sell to rather than just the one offering the biggest check. Houston also says there are no plans for Phoenix Labs to start work on games other than Dauntless at the moment.
While the official word on the sale is positive, the reaction from some fans has been considerably less so. On both Reddit and Twitter, players seem largely skeptical about the deal, if not outright hostile. Some fans point out the tendency of other Garena-published games to be saddled with microtransactions, while others simply decried Phoenix Labs for no longer being “independent,” along with a number of reactionary takes from players about the developer being acquired by an Asian company, with some incorrectly referring to Garena as Chinese.
Phoenix Labs seems to have big plans for the future of Dauntless, and being part of Garena will at least help make funding them easier. It remains to be seen whether players’ fears around publisher meddling and monetization will come true at the same time.