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Rovio bigger than PopCap. PopCap bigger than Zynga – It’s a gaming war of words!

Big gaming news emerged yesterday when EA Games (Electronic Arts) announced it had snapped up “casual” online games company PopCap for over $1-billion – Aquiring the developers behind ever-popular classics such as Bejewelled, Alchemy and Chuzzle as well as publishers for a range of apps for desktop PCs, Nintendo DS to iPhone and Android mobiles.

Today those easily aggravated makers of the Angry Birds games, Rovio, have taken a swing at the gaming team-up and it sounds to us like the company behind the successful feather-flinging franchise might be just a bit envious that rival Popcap got the call from gaming giant EA instead of them.

Ville Heijari, VP of Franchise Development at the Finnish co. says in an interview “I wouldn’t say EA has approached us with any offer – obviously we’ve discussed with many different companies”.

Continuing, a little defensively perhaps, he adds “About a year ago, in the summer of 2010, Angry Birds was already quite successful.  So we had a lot of enquiries from many, many different parties. But we’ve had an overall strategic goal of growing this company and moving into different areas of business beyond games. I don’t think there’s ever been a really relevant discussion of whether somebody is going to buy us”.

Speaking of Rovio’s worth in relation to PopCap, Heijari finishes off with an underhanded snipe “It was never a strategy here to quickly cash in on anybody who comes waving a wad of cash our way. But the valuation from our point of view is somewhere, I dunno, maybe north of PopCap”.

We have to wonder if Rovio’s Angry Birds – a one hit wonder (and it is a one hit wonder, if you rule out the numerous re-hashings of the mobile game and couple of relatively unknown N-Gage releases back in 2008) can match up against PopCap who are now backed by one of the biggest publishers in the gaming world, EA Games. They’ll be delivering some classic titles like Bejewelled, whilst also tackling the 21st century smartphone market with new titles like the hugely popular Plants vs. Zombies.

This isn’t the first time Rovio’s voice has been raised in regards to potential partnerships. Both Nintendo and Microsoft have received a lashing from the mobile gaming company in the past and the phrase that springs to mind here is “Does not play well with others”.

Electronic Arts isn’t entirely innocent of some dirt slinging today, but its target isn’t Rovio. EA’s Executive VP Barry Cottle has addressed who many now regard as the direct rival to PopCap – Zynga. In an interview of his own he states that EA Games is “playing a much bigger game”.

Suggesting that Zynga, the guys behind FarmVille, are too localised and reliant to Facebook and has no real stroke when it comes to the gaming market at large, Cottle says “We’re going after the $40 billion dollar digital market, where Facebook is just a segment. We’re diversifying ourselves and putting ourselves in a better position to go after that”.

“I don’t think people are going to be talking about just Facebook gaming or mobile gaming – they’re going to be talking about playing their favourite games across any and all digital platforms. The company that is able to create a seamless cross-platform experience with their franchises… that’s the team that wins, because people will have loyalty to great games and franchises that they can play on any connected environment. That’s the game we’re trying to win. Right now, they’re a big Facebook player. This puts us at a strong number two, however, and I think we’ll make a major dent on the Facebook side.”

PopCap’s John Vechey sets the scene for the future of the union – “What’s relevant to us is we’re trying to get to every single person in the world playing a PopCap game. We can now take advantage of the digital publishing strength of EA to help us get there. I don’t think of this as an answer to Zynga. It’s about making great games and getting them to a lot more people and EA’s the perfect partner for that”.

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