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EA Buys Bejeweled-Maker PopCap In Deal Worth Up To $1.3 Billion 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-break-it dept.
donniebaseball23 writes "Weeks ago, rumors were that Electronic Arts had stepped up to the plate to buy mobile/casual gaming publisher PopCap, developer of titles such as Bejeweled and Plants vs Zombies. Today, EA has confirmed that it has purchased PopCap for a final sum of $650 million and $100 million in shares of EA common stock. There's also the possibility for up to $550 million in earn-outs for hitting 2013 financial milestones. That would bring the price to a whopping $1.3 billion. 'We picked EA because they have recast their culture around making great digital games,' said David Roberts, CEO of PopCap. 'By working with EA, we'll scale our games and services to deliver more social, mobile, casual fun to an even bigger, global audience.'" More broadly, EA's plan for PopCap is: "don't break it."
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EA Buys Bejeweled-Maker PopCap In Deal Worth Up To $1.3 Billion

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  • Good for Pop-Cap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland @ y a hoo.com> on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @08:13PM (#36743086) Homepage Journal

    they deserve it..bad for consumers. EA will break it.

    First they will restrict new games to origins.
    Second they will increase fee for distribution rights
    Third, they will over think it
    Fifth, managers from EA will flock to be tied to this success. Once they ahe enought time in, they will flee.

    That's how I'm calling it.

    OTOH, I can wait for Plants V. zombie madden 2012; Plants V. zombie madden 2013; Plants V. zombie madden 2014, and so on.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I assume the fourth step is to learn to proofread.

    • Re:Good for Pop-Cap (Score:4, Interesting)

      by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @10:17PM (#36743992)

      They won't necessarily break it.

      Sure, they broke Bullfrog, maker of classics like Populous and Theme Park and Syndicate.
      And they turned the innovative Maxis into a factory for churning out neighbor-killing simulations.
      And they killed Westwood, creators of the wildly successful Command & Conquer franchise.
      And they wrecked multiple Ultima titles after acquiring Origin.

      But Bioware's been doing okay under them, so far. So maybe there's hope?

      • by Dyinobal (1427207)
        eh wrong Bioware is already going down hill, just take a look at dragon age 2.
        • by SQL Error (16383)

          There is no Dragon Age 2.

        • by artor3 (1344997)

          The original Dragon Age was already under EA, so you can't really blame them for problems in the second.

          • by Heed00 (1473203)
            The first one was pretty much finished when EA ate Bioware, so there wasn't time for EA to do much -- the second one is a different story.
    • by rahvin112 (446269)

      Your right about Origins and they most certainly will break it. They think the future is smartphone games, they've done a dozen paid press stories about how that's the future of gaming. They are going to bet the whole company on it. Definitely a category with some potential for money but in the long run it's not going to replace PC gaming (which EA abandoned 3 years ago) but might kill consoles (doubtful), that's yet to be seen. Personally I don't think people are going to stop playing games on big screens

    • I remember I reacted the same way when Disney took over Pixar, but in retrospect that didn't end up too horribly (although the latest Cars sequel is Disney-scary ...). Anyway, the "don't break it"-quote shows that EA execs are aware of the risks, so maybe there's some small hope they won't completely fuck up PopCap?
    • by vegiVamp (518171)

      And fourth is a mystery? :-)

    • I think you nailed it totally. EA will kill any creativity or value formoney tied up in PopCap. A pity, I really liked their games. Plants v Zombies is great fun.
    • by DarthVain (724186)

      You forgot that they will implement some sort of game crippling DRM.

      Fire all the developers. Hire 1/3 at 1/4 the cost, and make them work 3 times as hard.

      Then spend everything on marketing.

      LOL I was just about to make a madden joke, and just then saw you beat me too it. well played.

    • by blackair (1967466)
      1) What game developer doesn't EA seem to own. 2) I will give them the benefit of the doubt, they seem to have largely let bioware run itself, so i have hope for popCap. I still wonder why the sold the company.
    • by DiEx-15 (959602)
      I agree. When hasn't EA taken a good game company and utterly nuked it from orbit with it's shenanigans? I would have thought Pop Cap would have seen EA in action with other game companies (Maxis, Origin Systems, etc.) and told EA a polite "Fuck you, NO!"...

      ...but I guess $1.3 billion will make the best man weak. What is sad is that Pop Cap has helped draw in casual gamers. Now their games will be on EA's Origin or POGO. Ultimately, I hope that Pop Cap staff does not look back on this and regret making
  • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @08:16PM (#36743120) Homepage Journal

    I'm a throwback to when EA was making games for me on my Apple //c. Back in the day they ruled the roost for awesome games. I don't know if they were making most of them in-house or were just buying and slapping their logo on them, but almost every one of them was a winner.

    More broadly, EA's plan for PopCap is: "don't break it."

    Sounds like a good idea. Hopefully they intend to apply more PopCap to EA, than EA to PopCap. Usually the other way around spells disaster. IMHO EA is on the decline because they've lost touch with their customers. PopCap on the other hand, has a firm grip on that magic in today's market. That's where EA stands to benefit the most from with this move.

    • by Elbereth (58257) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @08:35PM (#36743292) Journal

      Back in those days, Trip Hawkins [wikipedia.org] was the CEO. He left in the early 90s, to found 3DO (which wasn't nearly as successful, to put it lightly). Unfortunately, after Trip Hawkins left, the company became quite a bit less creative, efficiently pumping out sequels to highly derivative games and buying smaller studios (and usually ruining them). I'll always remember the great EA games of the 80s fondly, but it's difficult to see how they're even remotely related to that company today. Hopefully, PopCap will fair better than Origin and Maxis, but I kind of doubt it. Actually, since I intensely dislike most social/casual games, I don't care, but it'd be nice to see someone actually flourish under the EA banner, for once. It's a shame that Trip Hawkins left the company, but it's hard to argue with their bottom line: EA is huge and highly profitable, despite their poor reputation among many gamers.

      Interesting bit of trivia: Trip Hawkins was actually an early Apple employee.

      • good points Elbereth.

        i remember Chuck Yeagers Flight Trainer,
        and Bard's Tale,
        and a couple others we could never afford.

        I believe Deluxe Paint was even EA, was it not?

        ahhh for the good old days.

        • by Dunbal (464142) *
          Starflight... Sentinel Worlds Future Magic... yumm, those were the days. I still play them once in a while.
          • Scorpia?

            Sierra magazine?

            King's Quest?

          • Starflight

            Even way back in the days of Starflight (1986) EA was a terrible company. I remember an email conversation I had with on of the developers many years ago where we talked a bit about the development of Starflight. He warned about dealing with Electronic Arts and didn't have anything good to say about them.

        • by Billlagr (931034)
          Skyfox...Deathlord... (C64)
      • Actually, since I intensely dislike most social/casual games

        Off-topic, but why do you intensely dislike these games? I'll agree with you if we're talking about the bullshit that comes out of companies like Zynga, but I know hard-core multiplayer FPS, the completely opposite end of the spectrum, who fall in love with Plants vs Zombies for example.

    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @08:43PM (#36743348) Homepage

      EA breaks everything they touch -- Westwood, Bullforg, Origin... even Maxis.

      Given EA's track record, PopCap doesn't stand a chance.

      • by keith_nt4 (612247) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @09:05PM (#36743524) Journal
        Didn't EA and Bioware merge...ahh damn it
      • by v1 (525388)

        origin... that was ultima wasn't it? I think they bought them out at about Ultima V? I played IV and V to death but I heard they werent any good after that?

        All hail Lord British ;)

        • by artor3 (1344997)

          EA bought Origin midway through development of VII.

          VIII and IX were notably worse than the previous titles (a quick look at ratings online has VII at 8.8 and IX at 6.5). The series died after that. Or more accurately, was zombified, with EA closing the studio and making browser-based Ultima titles.

      • by Machtyn (759119)
        Sadly, I agree. EA has had a large number of buy-out failures - that is, they buy a successful games maker with proven franchises, then release expected sequels to pitiful reviews and purchases. Granted, most of your examples was also during the whole "Letter from EA employee's wives" episode. EA took major hits from that. It seems that recently, they've been trying to reverse that culture and/or their public face about employee mistreatment and games that just don't shine.
      • by bfandreas (603438)
        To be fair, EA didn't break Origin. They gave them the kiss of life which lasted for a couple of years. Origin were pretty bad with money and would have gone bust despite their great games.
        Molyneux wasn't a crack businessman either.
        In fact it had become awfully silent around Gariott, the Robertses, Molyneux and the rest after the 90ies.
        One thing is certainly true tho. EA is incapable of producing anything original on their own. Would I have sold to them for 1.3bil? Are you kidding? That's enough money to
    • I regard this as a positive move. I'm much happier having EA own PopCap than the previous owner, who should be buried face down with a stake through its heart. Who might that be? Take a wild guess.
  • by xMrFishx (1956084) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @08:18PM (#36743142)
    Cow being prepared for milking.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The golden-egg-laying goose is more apt-- except instead of immediately slaughtering the goose to see where the eggs come from, EA will essentially put the goose in a factory farm, where it is overfed and forced to lay eggs until it dies.

      That's pretty much the story with SimCity, and no doubt many other series that EA bought hoping to cash in. By the time PopCap dies, it will release a fully-3D over-the-top Plants vs. Zombies vs. Jewels. vs. Peggle that crashes on 80% of systems.

  • What does this mean for Pogo.com? (as the first thing I can think of connecting the terms "EA" to "casual gamer" is that service) Will EA continue to monetise the hell out of it or will EA let it wither away a la Sims Online? I'm tilting towards the latter but since one niche Pogo fulfils (or is trying to) is hosting the official Scrabble game, but if Pogo goes, off to Scrabulous then; FWIW it's better.
  • Does this mean the back of Crazy Dave's car [wikia.com] just became a gateway for DLC?

  • Ohhhh can't wait! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by failedlogic (627314) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @08:39PM (#36743318)

    By this time next year.... "EA announces today the release of a new Plants* vs Zombies* game"

    * Plants and Zombies not included. Must purchase as a DLC.

  • That guy's comment is all executive speak for "I need money for hookers and that limo". If they really cared, they would realise that EA has nothing to offer them, except for a payday. This is selling out at the top, pure and simple.
    • by rotide (1015173) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @09:03PM (#36743502)
      If you ran a casual game company and someone offered to pay $1,300,000,000 for your company, would you not sell out? I would, in a heartbeat. Then I'd start another business and enjoy life without ever worrying about money again. (yes, I know it doesn't all go to one guy, and yes I also know that the heads of the company probably already didn't need more money, but the point still stands, over a BILLION dollars!)
      • by Quirkz (1206400)
        I have to agree. I've got a modest little online RPG, and while it's been the heart and soul of my creative efforts for half a decade, if someone offered me retirement-quality money for it I'd sell in a heartbeat. Not that I wouldn't be sad to let it go, but I've got plenty of other fantastic ideas I simply haven't had time to pursue because I've been focusing on this one thing for so long.
    • by Niomosy (1503)

      Let's see. A fair chunk of cash that my family can retire and live off of for the rest of our lives or artistic integrity?

      Sing it with me!

      Sell out, with me oh yea, sell out, with me tonight
      (Gaming) company's gonna give me lots of money
      And everything's gonna be all right.

      Plus, it's not like I can't go back and create something else later. Sad I can't revisit some game I wrote previously? Perhaps. That doesn't stop me from creating something new, however.

  • We picked EA because they have recast their culture around making great digital games,'

    'Recast their culture', hmm? What the fuck does that mean, exactly?

    By working with EA, we'll scale our games and services to deliver more social, mobile, casual fun to an even bigger, global audience

    Ah! They're 'scaling games' now! Marvellous, whatever the hell it is.

    If you want to say you're going to sell more games, say that; if you want to say you can hire more talent and make better games, say that. If it was a choice between saying you picked the buyer with the biggest offer or spewing hot air like this I'd have sooner you kept your mouth shut.

    English, Mr. Roberts, do you speak it?

    • Businessmen, like politicians, are like that: they can speak, speak, speak -- and say nothing.

    • by eclectro (227083)

      'Recast their culture', hmm? What the fuck does that mean, exactly?

      Instead of using whips and chains on their programmers, they cast them in vats of molten lead. With a handful of jewels.

    • by Terrasque (796014)

      Ah, let me get my BizTranslator(TM) up and running:

      We picked EA because they have recast their culture around making great digital games,'

      Translation: We picked EA because they're giving us large sacks of cash, plus hookers and blow. (Note: damn, I'm high now!!!)

      By working with EA, we'll scale our games and services to deliver more social, mobile, casual fun to an even bigger, global audience

      Translation: By working with EA we gain large sacks of cash, plus hookers and blow. (Note: woah, I'm flying...)

  • >"'By working with EA, we'll scale our games and services to deliver more social,"

    EEeeew, that will ruin Pop Cap. What made its games nice were that they were NOT scaled up and NOT "social". :(

  • I still haven't forgiven EA for the Spore DRM fiasco, so this means PopCap games (future and past) are off-limits for me now. Pity, I almost always enjoy their type of casual/puzzle games. Played the hell out of PvZ after getting it cheap during the last Steam sale, and still playing the Peggle games after several years.

    Don't blame them for selling, just wish it was to a better company.

    • I still haven't forgiven EA for Spore! If only Spore's DRM had prevented me from playing that horrid title!
  • I loved Peggle, and then PvZ even more. There is no hope now.
  • EA's gonna destroy PopCap. I can just imagine it...

    Plants vs. Zombies 2:
    The base game only has plants. The zombies are DLC.

    • by Niomosy (1503)

      Winning would then be easy! That wouldn't work to encourage DLC. What you do is only put in zombies and let the plants be DLC. Everyone now has an incentive to get the DLC.

  • Bejeweled, this is one my mother plays. She got it for her 73 year old friend who plays it. I will have to let her know that her silly game company sold for 1.3 Billionish.

    Never underestimate simple games. I can't get my dear old mom to try many games, but Bookworm hooked her in, then it was Bejeweled. Complicated games are beyond her, watching her death grip a mouse trying to steer around in a FPS makes me fret. Relax mom! But her and her friends love cheesy games. Things you don't catch a dyed in the wool

  • EA can break it. They have something like the Midas touch, except that whatever they touch turns to shit. Even now they're probably busily at work turning everything the company has ever produced into a huge steaming pile of shit. Tomorrow we'll wake up, and that'll be all that's left.
  • Well, since it's not a Madden title, EA is going to fuck PopCap up royally.

    They have a long and illustrious history of tanking pretty much every acquisition that's not a sports title.

  • Aw, crap. There goes another good game development company.
    I wonder if this will be as bad as when CA took over Cheyenne Backup, turning it into ARCserve and promptly damning it to hell.
  • Thanks corporate America for fucking over the little guy again.
  • EA announced the next update to Bejeweled won't be available until sometime late in the next decade.

It's time to boot, do your boot ROMs know where your disk controllers are?

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