Electronic Arts have announced the acquisition of Glu Mobile, the developer behind such mobile game hits as Kim Kardashian: Hollywood and a litany of other celebrity games. Glu Mobile is set to cost EA $2.4 billion in an all-cash deal – or to put it another way, it will cost EA two Codemasters – and is expected to close during the quarter ending on June 30th. I’m sure that many console gamers would scoff at the notion that a mobile developer could be worth double one of the most storied brands in British game development and racing games in particular, but there you are!
There is, of course, a good reason why EA are prepared to throw down $2.4 billion. EA Chief Executive Andrew Wilson said the company believes “mobile is the fastest-growing platform on the planet.” This move doubles the size of EA’s mobile business and dramatically grows the kinds of games that they make.
— Electronic Arts (@EA) February 8, 2021
It’s a major acquisition that echoes that of King by Activision Blizzard in 2016. As in that example, Glu will continue to work independently, though we can expect them to create games based on EA’s IP, and EA will leverage their global marketing presence to try and grow Glu’s audience.
Glu Mobile, has worked with Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Jason Statham, Gordon Ramsay, and more on mobile games, typically leaning on a free-to-play business model with microtransactions. EA are, of course, no strangers to microtransactions, raking in billions of dollars in microtransactions through their sports series like FIFA and NFL Madden, and shifting their existing mobile game business over to microtransactions almost a decade ago.
That’s not been without controversy, however. The company notoriously released Star Wars Battlefront II and quickly suspended the game’s microtransactions over its loot box monetisation, before reworking the system and reintroducing it months later. It was a fiasco that helped spur on a number of world governments to investigate microtransactions in games and the perception of this being tantamount to gambling, EA have selectively removed things like FUT packs from FIFA games in Belgium, while asserting that their “quite ethical” loot boxes are really just “surprise mechanics”.