Jun 23, 2011
Big news from the world of mergers and acquisitions; according to TechCrunch, PopCap is being bought for a $1 billion USD; that’s billion with a B. It is not known who is buying them yet, making this the tech industry’s equivalent of a “mystery team” that wanted to sign professional baseball player Cliff Lee this past winter. Hopefully, the rumors of an unknown suitor turn out to be true in this case as they were in that case.
This number sounds large when considered that their revenue is only in the $100-$150 million range, according to TechCrunch, who broke the story. However, considering that OpenFeint was purchased by GREE for $100 million when their revenues were only in the six figures, this is almost a bargain. As well, PopCap has a range of wildly popular intellectual properties; consider the popularity of Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies, then consider that they also make what is likely the most popular match-3 game, Bejeweled. They also release for many, many platforms – Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies, for example, are available on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo DS. So PopCap make games that are popular, and they have the ability to release them on a wide variety of platforms. It makes sense that they would be a popular acquisition target.
The question with PopCap’s acquisition is twofold – first, who is actually acquiring them? Secondly, what would the purpose of doing this be? Zynga is apparently out of the running, as the price tag was too high. EA could be a possibility, though their total valuation is only $7.4 billion dollars. Apple has the money to do so, but buying a game developer doesn’t seem like their style. One likely possibility might actually be Microsoft. Microsoft’s strength with Windows Phone 7 has been with gaming, in particular. Buying PopCap would only strengthen Microsoft’s gaming selection on mobile devices, along with being a potential boon for Games for Windows. There is also the possibility that games could come to Microsoft’s platforms like the Xbox 360 quicker than they have before.
Of course, if a large third party company bought PopCap, and it was one that had a vested interest in a singular platform, then would Android and other versions of PopCap games disappear? Microsoft has released apps for other platforms, but there’s a big difference between an app like PhotoSynth popping up on non-Microsoft platforms and releasing the latest PopCap addiction for other platforms. We’ll likely find out soon who the mystery suitor for PopCap is, and who knows; it could be a real surprise. Or perhaps an Asian company that wants to make a global splash the way that GREE and DeNA have with their acquisitions of OpenFeint and ngmoco, respectively.