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New publisher Nifty Games wants to “get back to the core spirit of sports games”

Will specialise in mobile and digital titles for fans “accustomed to enjoying ongoing touch points with their favourite sports”

Yet another new publisher has emerged, this time focusing solely on sports offerings.

California-based Nifty Games was founded earlier this year and has completed its seed round of funding to the tune of $3 million. The company will specialise in "head-to-head free-to-play mobile and digital experiences... for sports fans" and hopes to centre these titles around famous leagues, brands and players -- although it has no partnerships to announce at this time.

The publisher was formed by CEO John Middleton and Chief Product Officer Pete Wanat. Middleton has more than 20 years experience in the industry, having worked at the likes of Mad Catz and Pulse Entertainment, while Wanat is former VP of production from Universal's games division, where he helped launch mobile smash hit Despicable Me: Minion Rush.

Pete Wanat, Nifty Games

For their new venture, the two execs hope to "build a unique set of more accessible sports games", with Wanat telling GamesIndustry.biz that some of the current offerings are too complicated to reach a mass audience.

"We grew up playing Mike Tyson's Punch-Out, the early Maddens, FIFAs, NHLs and RBI Baseballs," he said. "That baited the hook for us to love the games of the sports we already loved. Even before the sophisticated TV-style cameras and photo realistic graphics of today's sim sports games, those early games captured the essence of the real sports without being a spoof.

"We want to get back to the core spirit of sports games - not in a retro look, but in a way that feels modern without the need for a master's degree in gaming to play.

"We feel strongly that our games will appeal to long time sports gamers and more casual fans alike. It will bring a much wider audience without the need for learning a complex playbook or intricate controls while still making sure we are capturing the nuances sports fans demand."

John Middleton, Nifty Games

Meanwhile, Middleton said that the focus purely on sports titles will give Nifty a "unique advantage" in a market with so many new publishers, thanks to the large fanbases so many sports leagues have already established over the decades.

"Today's sports fan is accustomed to enjoying ongoing touch points with their favourite sports - what happens on the field, the court, or in the ring, drives a passion amongst true sports fans that permeates their lifestyle and sports gaming feeds this community."

He continued: "Our focus is our strength. There's a huge benefit to making games for broad-based fan communities that have predisposed enthusiasm for sports. We're planning on taking advantage of that ongoing relationship with real world sports. Unlike other game genres that tend to rely heavily on fictional creative, we'll have an easier time identifying our market and a lower barrier to familiarise fans with our games. This is a massive value in today's mobile market. Our focus on sports games allows us to give full attention to the gamers that are most likely to play our games on a long term basis."

Leading the investment behind Nifty Games is aXiomatic Gaming, which is already heavily invested in esports and owns Team Liquid. The company is running its own efforts to connect the worlds of sports and video games, attracting the attention and investment of basketball superstar Michael Jordan.

Joining aXiomatic in supporting Nifty are venture capital firms Defy.VC and March Capital Partners, as well as games investors such as former Multiplay exec Craig Fletcher, Playdom and Idle Games' Trevor Wright, Red Octane's Kai Huang and Discord's Abhay Parek.

Nifty Games has even secured investment from team owners across all five of the major North American sports leagues.

"We've been fortunate to have such a great group of people who believe in Nifty Games' business," said Middleton.

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James Batchelor


James Batchelor is Editor-in-Chief at GamesIndustry.biz. He has been a B2B journalist since 2006, and an author since he knew what one was