If your favourite genre of video games is sports, there’s a very strong chance that Electronic Arts make your favourite games. Specialising in sports games wasn’t EA’s intention when the company was founded in 1982, but it’s a role they’ve accepted gladly. Whether your sport of choice is football, American football, basketball, motorsports or something else, EA has a game for you – and that’s precisely how they like it. They’re not satisfied with the empire they have already, though – they want to grow even bigger, and they’re prepared to spend big money to do it.
Only four months ago, the company completed its takeover of British gaming company Codemasters. That expensive acquisition, which is thought to have cost in excess of $1.2bn, effectively gave EA the few popular racing game franchises that it didn’t already control. With Codemasters under its wing, EA now publishes the annual official Formula 1 game along with the official World Rally Championship game, the “Dirt” franchise, “Grid,” and “Project Cars.” Codemasters held out for as long as they could, but very few smaller independent gaming firms could afford to say no to that kind of money. When it comes to racing games, EA now has the market cornered. They’ve committed to releasing one new game for every single one of those franchises every year.
Having spent so much money on Codemasters, investors probably expected EA to take the rest of the year off in terms of large-scale investments. If so, they’ll have got a big surprise this week. Seemingly out of nowhere, Electronic Arts has announced the acquisition of the Playdemic Mobile Games Studio from Warner Bros Games. This time, the total spend came in at $1.4bn. That’s another colossal spend, and it will necessitate an enormous return to make investors and shareholders happy. This time, though, the benefits aren’t as obvious as they were with the Codemasters takeover. Most gamers are familiar with Codemasters. Playdemic doesn’t enjoy the same reputation – so who are Playdemic, and why has EA decided to part with so much capital to bring them in-house?
Playdemic was founded in 2010 and has spent half of its existence to date under the Warner umbrella. The best-known game Playdemic has ever made is “Golf Clash.” If you’ve never heard of “Golf Clash,” it’s probably because you prefer to play your games on a console or PC than on a tablet or mobile device. While mobile gaming isn’t for everybody, hundreds of millions of people worldwide play mobile games every day. At last count, the latest version of “Golf Clash” has been downloaded more than eighty million times globally. Like most mobile games, it’s “free to play” but includes premium elements that players are invited to spend money on. It’s been a huge hit for Playdemic and represents a significant proportion of the value of the acquisition.
While Playdemic’s existing library of games will add value to EA, it’s thought that the company’s long-term goal is to become more active in the mobile gaming market. In a statement confirming the acquisition, EA spoke of its internal “mobile growth strategy” and even referred to the existence of a fancifully titled “mobile growth engine.” It’s long been suspected that EA would like to create mobile versions of all of its most popular console and PC games but didn’t have the right people or department to do so. Playdemic could change all of that. They’ll keep making “Golf Clash” and other games like it, but don’t be surprised if Playdemic also starts to make mobile versions of the FIFA and NFL games to do so well on consoles.
Attempting to break into the mobile market is a common aim among older and more traditional video game companies at the moment. They’ve seen how much money “Fortnite “and the mobile version of “Call of Duty” make, and they’re also aware of the success of mobile slots. If you’re not familiar with the latter, they’re mobile versions of online slots websites. When casinos first went online around twenty years ago, many analysts wondered whether gamblers would feel comfortable playing online slots rather than placing their bets in person. It turned out that gamblers felt just fine about doing so. When it became possible for online slots websites to load on phones, those same critics wondered whether players would be happy to use their handheld devices to access them. Once again, the transition was seamless. New, forward-thinking online slots sites like Rose Slots Canada are optimised for mobile devices, and they make more money because of it. The public becomes more and more willing to play games on their tablets and phones every year. Because of that, there’s more and more money to be made by catering to them.
The initial market response to EA’s latest purchase has been favourable and could scarcely have been timed any better. Earlier in June, the company was in the news for the wrong reasons after hackers accessed the company’s servers and stole sensitive data. EA confirmed that some of the source code to its most popular games was stolen, including the source code for “FIFA 21.” Worse still, the source code of EA’s “Frostbite” game engine was also accessed by the hackers, who came away with just under 800Gb of data after their attack. EA says that no player data was stolen, but consumer confidence in the company was affected. In theory, the data could allow a rival company to reverse-engineer EA’s creations. In practice, it’s highly unlikely that any reputable company would do so. The copying would be obvious, and it would quickly become a criminal matter.
Even with the unwanted attention of hackers, EA is clearly in a buoyant mood as a company as we head into the second half of 2021. Having spent almost three billion dollars on buying up other companies, it’s likely that all of their “big business” is done for the year, but we thought that after the Codemasters deal completed. We wouldn’t be especially surprised to see them try to buy out someone else – and with the amount of money they appear to have at their disposal, anyone could be a target.