Video game publishing giant Electronic Arts has bought casual games powerhouse PopCap for $650 million in cash and $100 million in stock. Bringing the maker of Bejeweled, Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies under the same roof as storied franchises like Madden NFL and The Sims, the acquisition is expected to bolster EA’s digital and social gaming initiatives.
Overwhelmingly popular with non-traditional game audiences like women and seniors, PopCap’s line of mainstream-friendly mobile games, apps, downloads, console outings and PC software strikes a clear counterpoint to Electronic Arts’ historical focus on diehard players. Its primarily digital revenues also stand in stark contrast to the latter’s emphasis on grand-scale, traditional retail products like Battlefield 3 and Dragon Age II for PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360 systems.
While EA already owns social games company Playfish, operates free online games website Pogo.com and publishes casual products under the Play label, PopCap’s products may provide the company further inroads into the online market. With Electronic Arts presently looking to reposition itself as a digital entertainment leader, as underscored by the recent debut of online game retail storefront Origin, it may be a fruitful marriage. Combining Electronic Arts’ distribution power and cash reserves with PopCap’s signature designs, known for their intuitiveness, immediacy and all-ages appeal, it may help both expand gaming’s reach to, and reinvent classic franchises for, new audiences. Time will tell.