BeReal, the buzziest app of 2022, has been bought by a mobile game publisher

Voodoo, known for its ad-supported free games, paid €500 million.

BeReal / Voodoo

Game publisher Voodoo (known for free-to-play mobile titles stuffed with ads) has bought the social platform BeReal (known for a scorching hot 15 minutes of fame in 2022) for €500 million. Although BeReal has fallen off the radar since its much-hyped peak, Voodoo says the app has grown to 40 million active users.

“BeReal achieved incredible user loyalty and growth, showing there is a universal need to share real, unfiltered experiences with close friends,” Voodoo CEO Alexandre Yazdi wrote in a press release. “We are very excited to bring our teams together and leverage Voodoo’s know-how and differentiated technologies to scale BeReal into the iconic social network for authenticity.”

If you’ve forgotten, BeReal’s gimmick is that it promotes “spontaneous authenticity” by prompting users to capture dual-camera pictures (a selfie and whatever the rear camera is aimed at) during two-minute windows at random times throughout the day. It won Apple’s iPhone App of the Year award in 2022 as younger users (especially) appreciated its less choreographed user content.

The app’s marketing spiel is that the short and sudden posting window forces spontaneous, unmanicured content (unlike, say, Instagram). On the downside, authenticity isn’t always engaging: Some users complained that its content could get downright boring. (Care to peruse an adrenaline-pumping pic of... somebody looking half asleep as they sit at a computer?)

Although BeReal’s buzz has died down significantly since its 2022 heyday (partially thanks to Instagram and TikTok cloning its gimmick while it was still hot), the company says its user base is growing more than you might expect. Voodoo’s 40 million active users figure is double the 20 million daily active users BeReal claimed in April 2023.

It’s worth noting that Voodoo’s press release on Tuesday describes BeReal as having 40 million active users, not daily active users, suggesting those figures may not be apples to apples. And around the time BeReal claimed 20 million daily active users last year, The New York Times published a report citing an analytics firm that said the app’s daily use had dropped 61 percent from its peak: from about 15 million users in October 2022 to “less than six million” in March 2023.

Split-screen showing the original Donut County mobile game (left) and its clone,
Left: The original Donut County. Right: Voodoo’s clone (Ben Esposito / Voodoo)

No matter whose figures are accurate, BeReal is now in the hands of the French gaming publisher Voodoo. Founded in 2013, the mobile gaming titan’s ultra-casual titles tend to do quite well. By 2022, it claimed to have passed six billion total downloads, and it says its apps trail only Google and Meta in mobile app installations.

However, Voodoo’s games are infested with ads, and it isn’t above stealing others’ ideas. For example, Voodoo’s free is a knockoff of the $5 Donut County from Los Angeles-based indie developer Ben Esposito, Apple’s 2018 iPhone Game of the Year and one of Engadget’s favorite games from six years ago.

Voodoo says Aymeric Roffé, CEO of its social app Wizz, will take over as BeReal’s CEO. The company says BeReal’s founder and previous CEO Alexis Barreyat will “remain involved in BeReal in the short term” before shuffling off to work on new products.