Electronic Arts Acquires Bight Games, One of the Developers Behind Trade Nations

Electronic Arts said it bought Canada’s Bight Games, which was one of the developers behind perennial top-grossing hit and Medieval city builder Trade Nations. Bight will join EAi as a mobile gaming studio in Canada.

There’s a bit of a wrinkle to this deal. Bight, which played a big role in designing the art and feel of TradeNations, had an IP dispute with the game’s publisher Seattle’s Z2Live earlier this year. Z2Live, which said it put in resources to service and improve the game, kept the license for iOS. Bight, meanwhile, got the right to distribute it on Facebook.

Needless to say, Trade Nations on Facebook hasn’t had the same level of success as its iOS counterpart given that that the city-builder genre is already saturated on the platform. On top of that, Bight lacks the pre-existing distribution network that more established social gaming companies like Zynga, EA Playfish or Wooga have. That said, with Trade Nations’ success, the studio has what it takes to create a hit and EA sees that. Z2Live has since gone on to raise additional funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and launch a second hit MetalStorm: Online.

As for EA, this deal is another sign that the gaming giant is beginning to take the freemium revenue model more seriously, especially after the company agreed to pay up to $1.3 billion to buy Seattle’s PopCap Games. To date, many of EA’s best-known franchises like The Sims still employ the paid app approach on iOS.