Electronic Arts bought UK mobile game publisher Chillingo, which distributes the break-out hit Angry Birds.
The deal, first rumored in a report from All Things Digital, comes a week after Japanese social platform maker DeNA bought mobile social game maker Ngmoco for about $ 400 million. It also extends EA’s move into more social and mobile games, which got a boost with its $ 400 million purchase last year of Playfish, a major Facebook game maker. EA declined to confirm the purchase price of Chillingo, which has been rumored to be $ 20 million.
While Chillingo has found enormous success with the release of Angry Birds from developer Rovio, and more recently Zeptolab’s Cut the Rope, which sold 1 million units in its first week, the deal for Chillingo will not include those developers as Chillingo only distributes those games. What EA — already the one of the top publishers on iOS — gets is Chillingo’s ability to sniff out upcoming titles like Cut the Rope and access to a wide variety of mobile games. In addition to its titles, Chillingo operates Crystal, a social gaming platform that ties users of different games together into one community.
“By acquiring Chillingo, EA Mobile is increasing its market leadership on the Apple Platform as well as reaffirming its position as the world’s leading wireless entertainment publisher,” EA said in a statement. “This acquisition will combine Chillingo’s expertise in cultivating the ideas of independent developers with EA’s global mobile publishing reach.”
The deal shows that traditional game publishers are increasingly looking to diversify into lower-cost, casual games that are delivered digitally. EA has been talking for some time of getting away from games as a packaged goods business into games as place people go.
The bet on Chillingo shows that mobile social gaming is only going to gain more steam. The divisions we see between social gaming companies operating on platforms like Facebook or the web and mobile gaming companies are going to collapse and will be aided by consolidation, as some of the larger players look to make their titles ubiquitous across platforms.
Separately, I hear from my sources that the deal was still weeks away from being finalized, but the All Things D report kicked things into gear.
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