Zynga Goes Global, PopCap Goes Social: Casual Gaming Gets Serious

The casual games space is heating up--and two major acquisitions this week point the way forward.

Baking Life

Zynga is poised to go global on a greater scale. This week it announced it had acquired Wonderland Software, a British studio behind a popular mobile game called GodFinger. Likewise, it wasn't forthcoming about the amount spent to do so. Though Zynga bought the Wonderland team and some of the studio's IP, it did not buy the rights to GodFinger itself. Wonderland will also now be calling itself Zynga Mobile UK.

It's a smart move for Zynga, which has been on a buying spree of late--it has been acquiring about one games studio per month, notes GigaOm. Zynga has been looking to wean itself off of Facebook; the Wonderland team, with their mobile focus, are perfect for that.

And while Zynga goes global, PopCap Games is going social. The guys behind Bejeweled, said today that they're acquiring ZipZapPlay, a San Francisco social gaming company. (It wouldn't specify how much it was paying.) PopCap Games, which recently garnered a passing mention in our recent most innovative companies in gaming story, already has a strong foothold in the social games biz: Bejeweled Blitz and Zuma Blitz have about 5 million daily active users, making it the third largest Facebook game developer. PopCap's games have been downloaded 1.5 billion times; Bejeweled alone has sold 50 million copies.

Even so, the Seattle-based company is looking to add ammunition to its social arsenal. "The team at ZipZapPlay is one of the best in the social games space," John Vechy, PopCap co-founder, said in a statement. He said the move was a long-term, strategic one: "We believe ZipZapPlay can help us further evolve and expand the definition of social games."

ZipZapPlay gets to maintain its autonomy, even as it reports to PopCap. Its 17-person team will stay in San Francisco. (ZipZapPlay is perhaps best known for its Facebook game, Baking Life, which I tried to play for two minutes before crying tears of boredom. True, I don't think I'm in their target demographic.)

If ZipZapPlay wants to catch up to Zynga (or even to EA, for that matter--it trails both in Facebook gaming), it might have to do more than acquire a studio known for its baking games.

Read More: Most Innovative Companies: Zynga

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