Reports started hitting the Internet last night that claim that PopCap Games, the maker of some highly popular titles such as Plants vs. Zombies and Bejeweled, is about to be acquired – and the price tag might be as much as $1 billion or more.
No one’s entirely sure who the buyer is, although TechCrunch is reporting that it has heard the buyer is Electronic Arts, one of the biggest publishers in video games. EA has made a decent impact in the mobile sphere in the last couple of years, but apparently has not done as well as it does in the console and PC markets. Reports say that snagging PopCap is meant to heavily bolster EA’s social and mobile game markets.
PopCap is also the maker of some highly successful titles across multiple platforms, which is why it’s asking such a high price. In addition to its other, more well-known titles, the company recently spun off a smaller mobile studio to make more experimental titles such as Unpleasant Horse. If EA were to go with PopCap, it would be a pretty big gamble for the company – more than 13 percent of its market cap, which is $7.49 billion, according to TechCrunch. PopCap’s revenue is roughly $100 million to $150 million.
Other potential buyers if it isn’t EA for some reason include Zynga, the maker of FarmVille, which apparently did think about acquiring PopCap, TechCrunch reports. Zynga has made a slew of game company acquisitions in the last few months – 12 in 12 months, in fact. But the cost seems to have been too much for Zynga, causing it to back-off. I’ve also heard that Microsoft could be a potential buyer, and this would make sense given the recent success of its games studio and its new Kinect hardware angling toward casual motion-based games.
TechCrunch also suggests that there could be an Asian gaming company looking to break into the western market with a big acquisition; that’s the strategy adopted by Japanese gaming company DeNA last year when it acquired mobile games maker ngmoco. DeNA dropped more than $300 million for ngmoco, and there are other big companies like the Chinese firm Tencent that could be looking to snap up PopCap.
Regardless of who’s doing the buying, this is going to be a big deal for gaming in general and could have a pretty big effect on the mobile and casual gaming markets. We’ll keep an eye on this one and update this story as more information becomes available.