Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Has EA Bought More Mobile-Games-Like Hype?

Social network maven Mashable created a buzz-frenzy earlier today when it reported on a rumor (though it must be a well-sourced one for them to post it) that Electronic Arts (ERTS) may have quietly purchased Facebook game developer Playfish (run by former Glu Mobile EMEA chief Kristian Segerstrale) for $250mil a few weeks ago.

If this is true, it would be highly ironic, even bizarre, in light of a GamesBeat post a couple of hours later covering a discussion EA's new COO, John Schappert had with Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Kane. During the conversation, at a Dow Jones Newswire event in Redwood City, Schappert equated the hype around social games to that around mobile games at the time the company bought (overpaid) $680mil for Jamdat in 2005. "Social games have attracted a lot of eyeballs. Venture money is pouring into it. Is it sustainable or is it a bubble? There are a lot of parallels to mobile," he said. He then went on, according to the report, to recall that the "mobile craze" created unrealistic expectations for growth.

The only way to reconcile these two pieces of information (if the former is true) is if the purchase negotiations are ongoing and Schappert is strategically trying to downplay the hype around social gaming to minimize the final purchase price. Clever? Whether he believes what he said or not, I think he's almost correct, except that social gaming is an even bigger hype-bomb than mobile games ever were. If you guessed that I think buying Playfish (or Zynga, etc.) at current frothy valuations is a good idea for EA, then you've obviously been living on one of Playfish's Crazy Planets for the last several months. That said, if Playfish has the opportunity to sell at this price (or near it) they should jump on it.

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