Electronic Arts finally broke its silence on weeks of speculation today, confirming its acquisition of social gaming giant Playfish.
The deal is valued at $275 million -- plus $25 million in equity retention arrangements, even higher than the $250 million originally rumored
. EA says Playfish's sellers can also earn up to $100 million more, contingent on the achievement of "certain performance milestones" between now and the end of 2011.
The move is aimed at speeding EA's entry into the social gaming space, and to strengthen the company's much-discussed transition into digital, web and wireless markets. Playfish will operate within EA Interactive, a division of the company focused on those markets.
"Social gaming, with its emphasis on friends and community, is seeing tremendous growth and this is the right time to invest to strengthen our participation in this space," says EA Interactive's senior VP and GM Barry Cottle.
When Gamasutra asked EA about the rumors earlier
, COO John Schappert was fairly mum, but noted that in the rush to social platforms, interest in the space must be taken with care to "avoid the bubble" in favor of strong, lasting brands.
Playfish certainly appears to be shaping up to find enduring success in a space that's seen something of a gold rush in recent years. Its games, including Pet Society, Word Challenge
and Country Story
, have become mainstay brands on social networks like Facebook -- to the tune of 135 million installs across the social and mobile platforms it serves.
Playfish has also claimed 50 million monthly active users playing over 1 billion sessions per month across all nine of its titles. The London-headquartered company also just opened its second office in San Francisco, focused on original social games for Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, iPhone and Android.
"The industry is undergoing dramatic transformation, and joining EA is the ideal opportunity for us to push forward our goals to lead in the social entertainment evolution on a faster and much larger scale," says Playfish co-founder and CEO Kristian Segerstrale.
"EAi's vision and entrepreneurial culture are consistent with our own, and together, we are in position to be the company that defines new and innovative connected experiences that will change the way people play games."