Visa Enters Virtual Good Payment Industry with Acquisition of Playspan

Global payments technology company Visa has announced an agreement to acquire online game monetization-as-a-service provider Playspan for $190 million cash. The acquisition will allow Visa to start taking a cut of virtual good market, which will grow from $1.6 billion in 2010 to $2.1 billion in 2011, according to our Inside Virtual Goods report.

Founded in 2006, Playspan helps developers by allowing users make in-game payments and buy Credits through Facebook’s integration of its UltimatePay product that accepts 85 local payment methods from 180 countries. Developers can integrate the pop-up UltimatePay lightbox that shows users relevant payment methods based on their location and more.

Playspan sells pre-paid Ultimate Game Cards in retail locations so users can purchase virtual currency and goods without a credit card. The company also powers custom virtual goods storefronts, lets publishers create their own virtual currency or subscription products, and provides analytics. Its services work across web and mobile interfaces and all game types, and its publisher partners include Disney/Playdom, EA/Playfish, IMVU, and Ubisoft.

To date, Playspan has raised $46 million over several rounds from Easton Capital Group, Menlo Ventures, Vodafone Ventures and others. Thanks to the acquisition, early investors will see a sizable return, though late round investors may only double their money.

Playspan will join electronic payment security company CyberSource that Visa recently acquired in the payment technology giant’s growing digital and mobile ecommerce division.Visa could lends its reputable brand name to Playspan’s products, increasing user trust. Our survey on user preferences for social game payments showed that Visa was a highly preferred payment method, and was significantly more preferred and recognizable than Playspan’s Ultimate Game Cards.

Visa seems determined not to be left behind as more purchases move from brick and mortar retail stores to digital storefronts, games, and online media. Playspan’s technology and industry experience will help Visa stay relevant, and Visa will provide the monetization service more legitimacy.