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David Helgason
Unity CEO David Helgason

SAN FRANCISCO – When asked what he took away from Microsoft’s $2.5 billion acquisition of Minecraft maker Mojang, Unity CEO David Helgason jokingly called the game “one of the best things ever built in the history of mankind.”

In all seriousness, he said, “My takeaway is that genius is genius.”

He called the acquisition the latest evidence that small, smart teams can have a big impact in gaming. He cited past examples including the early development of Angry Birds and Clash of Clans. In his view, some of the companies best situated to succeed as the gaming market expands are teams with fewer people who can provide a novel experience to an ever-broadening audience of game players.

Helgason made the comments during an interview at the GamesBeat conference in San Francisco today.

He’s in a position to know. As the CEO of Unity, his company’s tools are powering some of the new mega-hits in the mobile gaming industry by giving developers the ability to deploy their games across several platforms at once.

“It’s such an exciting industry right now, and it’s so hard to predict, somehow,” Helgason said. “And that seems to favor often the smaller teams who are just doing something different from what everyone else is doing.”

What’s more, those smaller teams can benefit from the new economy driven by the growth of mobile app stores. The vast majority of the profits from mobile gaming are concentrated near the top of the charts, but Helgason pointed out that a leaner team can still make a healthy living on a smaller revenue stream that’s achievable by reaching a high (but slightly lower) position on the top charts.

Helgason’s talk comes amid a lot of discussion surrounding Microsoft’s purchase of Mojang. Gaming industry insiders here at GamesBeat have said that they’re cautiously optimistic about the future of the company, and echoed Helgason’s take on the potential of smaller teams.

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