How $1.4 billion Playdemic deal accelerates EA's future mobile success

Jeff Karp and Paul Gouge on more games and synergies

How $1.4 billion Playdemic deal accelerates EA's future mobile success

Given its $680 million acquisition of Jamdat way back in 2005, EA's mobile strategy over the subsequent 16 years has been surprisingly more 'off' than 'on'.

But with the recent acquisitions of Glu Mobile and Playdemic, plus the announcement of games such as Apex Legends Mobile, Battlefield Mobile and Plants vs Zombies 3 (on mobile), EA has never been more 'on' when it comes to mobile games.

And there's plenty more to come.

"We're looking to leverage our own IP for mobile-specific titles and accelerate our growth through acquisitions, and Playdemic can consider new games and licences." points out EA Mobile SVP Jeff Karp, of the company's most recent deal.

"EA has a clear focus. It has the best sports games in the world and we're ambitious to grow its mobile business with new sports," echoes Playdemic's CEO Paul Gouge.

Sports but different

It's a mark of how the sports genre has changed in recent years that underpins the $1.4 billion in cash that EA was prepared to pay Warner Bros. to get its hands on Playdemic and its Golf Clash game.

Building on the casual style of games such as Let's Golf and Everyone's Golf, Golf Clash is a world away from heavy sim games such as EA's Tiger Woods series.

"Everyone knows the rules of golf, but to make Golf Clash a compelling experience, we broke more of the rules than we kept," explains Gouge.

Certainly Golf Clash's success wasn't about simulating an 18-hole experience in which the player nearest the hole chooses the correct club and plays the next shot. Instead, it was a compellingly cute turn-based experience combining simple trajectory-based gameplay with a strong competitive social meta.

Before getting Golf Clash, we tried many prototypes; different sports, different core loops.
Paul Gouge

And it's the social experience that has players coming back for more.

"We don't talk about how many downloads Golf Clash has [80 million]," says Gouge.

"We talk about engagement and how many people are playing every day. For example, we have a cohort of players from January 2017 who still play for an hour a day."

What's next?

As for what sports Playdemic looks at next, Gouge isn't even hinting, merely to say that Golf Clash was itself the product of a highly iterative approach to game making.

"You can't take a cookie cutter approach. Before getting Golf Clash, we tried many prototypes; different sports, different core loops," he argues.

"Our biggest realisation is you have to be based around the player experience."

And it's this strategy as much as Golf Clash's success - estimated at $800 million in lifetime revenue - that Karp says was key to EA's acquisition.

"What makes Golf Clash special is its accessibility and depth," he says, adding that this balance is also the key to wider success in the mobile sector.

The challenge in future months and years will be how EA extends such attributes throughout all its mobile activities, which are broken down across the sports, RPG/4X, shooter and casual genres.

"It's about shared practices, taking trends cross-genre and building out the structure that enables this across our portfolio of games," ends Karp.

So with EA Mobile now a +$1 billion-a-year part of EA's wider games business, perhaps the only question is when does it fully embrace the lure of mobile a become a majority mobile revenue company?   

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.