PopCap to be acquired for more than $1 billion?

[UPDATE] Bejeweled, Peggle creator said to be evaluating purchase offers from unnamed buyers; Zynga, EA, Tencent named as possible suitors; more sources point to EA.

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Source: AOL's technology blog TechCrunch.

What we heard: Casual game studios have been snapped up by big-time companies in droves of late, with the likes of PlayFish, Chillingo, Playdom, and Ngmoco all being acquired for, in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, it appears as if casual gaming stalwart PopCap Games is the next studio in line for a massive payday.

Multiple unnamed sources have reportedly informed TechCrunch that a buyer is looking to dole out more than $1 billion to acquire PopCap. The price is apparently 10 times as much as PopCap's yearly revenues, which TechCrunch reports are around $100 million-$150 million.

Is Bejeweled a billion dollar franchise?
Is Bejeweled a billion dollar franchise?

The problem, however, is that TechCrunch's sources have no idea who the buyer could be. FarmVille creator Zynga, which is reportedly mulling an initial public offering, is said to be one potential purchaser. However, TechCrunch's sources indicate that Zynga backed off the deal due to PopCap's high asking price.

Beyond Zynga, TechCrunch reports Electronic Arts or an Asian game company, such as Call of Duty Online service provider Tencent, could be potential suitors.

[UPDATE] Following on from yesterday's report, TechCrunch reports that it has received word from two additional sources that the mystery buyer is, in fact, EA. TechCrunch's sources also characterized the negotiations as being in a "late stage."

PopCap is perhaps best known for its Bejeweled franchise, which has sold more than 50 million units since first release in 2000. The most recent installment, Bejeweled 3, arrived for the PC in December and is expected to hit other platforms later this year. The Washington-based studio has also found success with such franchises as Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies.

The official story: "Per company policy, we do not comment on rumors and speculation of this nature."--A PopCap representative. Electronic Arts had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

Bogus or not bogus?: Probably not bogus that the casual-obsessed market would be giving PopCap a long, hard look. However, as recent as last week, PopCap cofounder John Vechey told the Wall Street Journal that the company is mulling its own IPO for later this year. As such, this deal, should it be in the works, is anything but finalized.

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