2011’s Social Game-Related Mergers & Acquisitions: Inside Social Games and AppData’s Performance Review

In 2011, Inside Social Games tracked nearly 20 mergers and acquisitions involving Facebook game developers and publishers, with total disclosed purchase prices in excess of $1.7 billion dollars. Here are the biggest M&A stories of the year.

Often the results of these purchases and mergers were observable on AppData, our data tracking service. For instance, some developers enjoyed the cross-promotional and advertising power of their new parent company, while others saw their games sunsetted, as the development teams transitioned to other games within the company’s portfolio. To better contextualize the data, we’ve provided our list in chronological order. Additionally, Zynga has been given its own category, as it made at least eight game-related purchases throughout 2011.

RockYou acquires Playdemic – January

Publisher RockYou purchased UK-based Playdemic, creators of the farming-restaurant sim Gourmet Ranch, for an undisclosed sum right at the beginning of the year. Roughly 10 months later, RockYou sold Playdemic back to the studio’s founders as part of a dramatic restructuring.

In the months leading up to the January 2011 purchase, Gourmet Ranch was attracting MAU in the mid six figure range, and strong engagement rates of between 15 and 25%. In the months after the RockYou’s purchase, MAU grew rapidly, reaching a peak of about 6 million in June before beginning a gradual decline for the rest of the year. In the four weeks before RockYou sold Playdemic back to its founders, Gourmet Ranch saw a jump in growth that took DAU/MAU from 10% to about 26%. This growth continues even now, currently seeing around 30% DAU/MAU from 490,000 MAU. For RockYou’s part, the company has seen growth of about 3.15 million MAU since the November cutbacks, and now has 6.9 million MAU. The company also saw a drop of DAU/MAU during that period, falling from 18% then to 13% as of this week.

Visa acquires PlaySpan for $190 Million – February

Credit card giant Visa purchased game monetization service provider PlaySpan for $190 million in cash toward the beginning of the year. The acquisition is significant in the social games industry as it marked Visa’s entry into the virtual goods market — where PlaySpan facilitated transactions within Facebook and other web game platforms. Though we have no data-driven way to track the influence Visa had on PlaySpan post-acquisition, we do observe that the PlaySpan Marketplace page saw a very sharp spike at the time of the Visa announcement, jumping briefly from 6700 MAU to 23,000, before returning to normal usage levels of between 4000 and 6500 MAU. PlaySpan told us in August that a partnership with Facebook allowed the company’s continued existence on the platform following the mandatory integration of Facebook Credits as the sole currency.

PopCap Games acquires ZipZapPlay – April

Before its own acquisition by EA (see below), casual game publisher PopCap acquired developer ZipZapPlay, developer of the pet game Happy Habitat and the restaurant sim Baking Life, for an undisclosed sum.

As part of the acquisition, Happy Habitat was taken offline. Baking Life, which had about 2.5 million MAU and about 20% DAU/MAU at the time of the acquisition, was placed in “evaluation mode” while PopCap considered whether or not the aging game was worth saving. Though the game continued its slow but steady loss of users that began months before the acquisition, MAU stabilized around October, and DAU/MAU now runs between 22 and 24%.

Harrah’s (Caesars Entertainment Corporation) acquires Playtika $80 Million+ – May & December

Slotomania developer Playtika was first partially acquired by Caesars Entertainment Corporation through its Harrah’s casino brand in May — and then completely bought out in December. The total price of the acquisition is reportedly between $80 and $90 million.