Peggle studio 'to accelerate EA push towards a $1 billion digital business'

EA to buy PopCap in deal worth $750 million

Electronic Arts will purchase casual gaming giant PopCap for a total of $750 million, the publisher has announced.

PopCap, the Washington-based studio responsible for blockbusters such as Peggle and Bejeweled, has been offered "$650 million plus $100 million stock and multi-year earn-out", EA said.

The publisher’s CEO John Riccitiello said PopCap’s studio talent and IP roster will help drive EA "towards a $1 billion digital business".

Riccitiello pledged to “rapidly expand” PopCap’s business to further digital devices, and to more countries via EA’s own business channels.

The deal is expected to be pushed through August 2011, and will mark EA’s biggest acquisition yet in the social games space.

DIGITAL CROSSROADS

The $750 million buyout dwarfs the $400 million EA dispensed with to buy social devs Playfish in 2009.

But – in a telling sign of an industry at a crossroads – the cost of the PopCap buyout is close to the record $860 million EA had paid for both BioWare and Pandemic.

The buyout is perhaps the clearest indication yet that publishing giants see social gaming as a critical factor in the future of the industry.

Electronic Arts is pushing fast into the casual, social and mobile games businesses. After buying Playfish for $400 million, the group acquired mobile publisher Chillingo for about $17 million.

The publisher is also rumoured to be buying social outfit Ohai, for a fee nominal in comparison.

PopCap CEO David Roberts said the group picked EA "because they have recast their culture around making great digital games".

"By working with EA, we’ll scale our games and services to deliver more social, mobile, casual fun to an even bigger, global audience", he added.

Earlier in the year, PopCap was thought to be considerng going public, though no such move had materialised.

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