EA eyes Facebook sports games, more digital buys

By Georgina Prodhan

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – Electronic Arts, maker of the Madden NFL and FIFA soccer video games, is looking to build sports games for Facebook after buying social-games maker Playfish for $275 million, and may buy other similar companies.

The head of EA Sports, Peter Moore, said the company was learning from Playfish about building communities that could actively help it improve its games as it seeks to expand its online offerings amid a decline in packaged games for consoles.

Venture capital-backed Playfish makes games for people to play for free on computers with friends, mainly on Facebook. Its hits include “Pet Society,” in which players create pets that interact with each other, and buy virtual goods for them.

EA, which slashed its fiscal 2010 forecast this month, partly due to a steep fall in sales of packaged games in Europe, has been criticized by some investors for paying too much for Playfish. The acquisition was completed a few weeks ago.

“We are learning an awful lot about a very different type of game experience than we are used to doing,” Moore told Reuters in an interview.

“We use social networks primarily right now for building marketing tools,” he said. “We then look at how do we build games, and we will be doing that in conjunction with Playfish.”

EA Sports accounts for about 30 percent of the company’s overall revenue, which was $4.2 billion in the year to March 31.

Moore said EA, which failed in a hostile bid for rival Take-Two in 2008, would likely look to buy more companies like Playfish.

“You’re seeing a focus in our M&A activity being on companies that will enhance our digital strategy,” he said.

Moore said online games were not only a way of compensating for lost revenue from packaged games but also potentially a source of new ideas and better games.

“It allows you to go out and go get more friends, get more people involved. You’re building a labor force quite frankly that helps you build your game and be more powerful or more relevant in that game environment,” he said.

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(Editing by Sharon Lindores)

EA eyes Facebook sports games, more digital buys