Is EA shelling out $250m for Playfish?

Is EA shelling out $250m for Playfish?
Michael French

By Michael French

October 14th 2009 at 10:17PM

Rumours swirl that publishing giant is buying social network games experts

A report on Inside Social Games has speculated that the increasingly-successful social games developer Playfish could be acquired by EA.

And now other reports are claiming the publisher is paying a cool $250m for the Facebook games company.

Although representatives from both sides have since stepped up to say they won't be commenting on the rumour, the news has set tongues wagging in the sector.

A report on Inside Social Games says: "We have a few more details on what has supposedly been happening with Playfish. A reliable industry source says EA may have even acquired the company several weeks ago, with an announcement possibly happening in the next few weeks. We believe that Playfish could be on track to make as much as $75 million this year. An EA acquisition of Playfish would also help validate many successful social gaming companies, as would a successful Zynga IPO. There have been no major liquidity events yet for social gaming companies, just purchases of small developer teams by larger shops."

The site also quotes a source as saying: "I believe there is some reality [to the reports]."

And while he hasn't confirmed the reports, EA's John Shappert has today conceded that the social gaming market is increasingly important.

"We've seen some very creative developers move to social gaming and deliver experiences that are generating a lot of eyeballs on sites like Facebook and MySpace. The traffic has attracted a lot of attention - and dollars - from the investment community," Gamasutra quotes him as saying.

It might at face value seem like a strange fit for EA; the firm, which a year ago announced radical plans to downsize to save costs, had previously said it wouldn't be interested in any more major acquisitions, and already boasts a successful casual-oriented business in Pogo.com.

But buying someone like Playfish would give it access to the millions of consumers served by the firm's Facebook games every day.

Playfish's games have been played and installed over 135m times. The firm currently has over 50 million monthly active players across its nine games, resulting in more than 1 billion game play sessions each month.

The company’s three most popular Facebook games, Pet Society, Restaurant City and Country Story, attracted more than 32 million players this past August alone. It currently has offices in London, Beijing, Norway and a recently opened studio in San Francisco.