JULY 12, 2011 • Another major publisher bent on acquiring free-to-play studio expertise is Ubisoft. The company acquired Paris-based studio Owlient, which has been has been creating F2P content for six years, and has amassed over 25 million user registrations in that period. Owlient’s Howrse franchise has nearly 2 million monthly active users. Terms were not disclosed. In related news, Electronic Arts acquired PopCap Games in a deal that may go as high as $1.3 billion in cash and stock, depending on the latter’s revenue performance.
Impact: The trend of traditional games publishers embracing new platforms and business models is a logical market adaptation strategy. While the EA-PopCap deal could be worth over $1 billion, we suspect the Ubisoft-Owlient deal was considerably smaller. This brings into question the potential financial return major publishers could expect. For EA, the strategy was to go big with PopCap’s significant revenue stream from a mix of successful casual PC, online, social, mobile and console products. For Ubisoft, the strategy was to go relatively small (by comparison). But the commonality was that both publishers sought to buy additional expertise, rather build everything from the ground up and at minimum.