EA Acquires Playfish, but Can It Compete on Facebook?

By all appearances, Electronic Arts (EA), one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, is going guns-a-blazin’ into an online gaming realm dominated by Mafia Wars.

Playfish and EA

Currently, EA’s casual gaming division, Pogo, offers only a handful of Pogo games on Facebook. recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, but according to QuantCast,
its U.S. traffic is down
from about 10.1 million to 8.5 million in the last six months. A bevy
of social games could help revitalize the brand. And according to The Business Insider, that’s exactly the move EA is making, acquiring Playfish, a maker of Facebook games, for $250 million.

“The move shows that the big game companies are paying are paying attention to social gaming as a viable market,” says Anu Shukla, CEO of virtual currency provider Offerpal. “You don’t have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to bring out a World of Warcraft. The initial investment is low, the development is quick, and the monetization is high.”

pet society

Though EA CEO John Schappert believes social gaming may be a bubble, one can’t argue with the success of Playfish’s Restaurant City (16.6 million users) or Pet Society (20 million users). “You have a whole new segment of casual gamers to reach out to, and with Playfish, the capability to do that,” Shukla says.

But can EA catch up to Facebook-phenom Zynga? With such popular titles as FarmVille and Mafia Wars, that company now has 130 million players on its various titles. And it’s only likely to grow faster with a cash influx expected from its coming IPO.

When given a chance to confirm and discuss the purchase of Playfish, a spokesperson for EA replied, “EA doesn’t comment on speculation about our acquisition strategy.”