PopCap CEO David Roberts told the Guardian that a change in EA's culture was one of the reasons they decided to sell to the publisher. "We picked EA because they have recast their culture around making great digital games," he said. "By working with EA, we'll scale our games and services to deliver more social, mobile, casual fun to an even bigger, global audience."
The $750 million investment represents a very serious push into the casual PC gaming market for EA, who have found success with free-to-play and casual games in recent years. The big question is, how independent will PopCap be under EA ownership?
EA's current strategy has been to invest in a small number of franchises across multiple formats. Dragon Age 2 got a Facebook game. The Sims, Fifa, Mass Effect and Dead Space have all received iPhone offshoots. Will PopCap be charged with creating casual spinoffs for EA's future big releases, or will they continue to create the quirky, addictive PC games that have made them such a huge success over the last few years?
"What does this mean for the future?" ask PopCap on their site . "It's simple: 1, EA is being rebranded to Poptronic Arts; 2, Sim Zuma: The SwampLife Edition; 3, Peggle: Dead Space – Bjorn's Breakfast; 4, Bejeweled Battlefield Blitz; 5, Plants vs. ZombEAz: NFL Lockout Edition."
"We're not changing our focus from creating awesome casual games everyone can enjoy," they add.
EA CEO John Riccitello gave a more businesslike appraisal of the purchase. "EA and PopCap are a compelling combination," he says. "PopCap's great studio talent and powerful IP add to EA's momentum and accelerate our drive towards a $1bn digital business. EA's global studio and publishing network will help PopCap rapidly expand their business to more digital devices, more countries, and more channels."
Enormous amounts of money are at stake. EA will pay $650m upfront for the studio along with $100m of stocks. They're also offering $550 million in bonuses to PopCap if they hit sales milestones over the next few years. The deal is expected to be closed next month.