Disney is acquiring social gaming start-up Playdom for up to US$763.2m.
The deal sees the Mouse stake its claim to the fast-growing Facebook casual games sector, where Playdom vies for third place behind market leader Zynga and Playfish.
Disney will pay US$563.2m up front with a further US$200m in performance-related earn-outs in the future.
Playdom has been around for just two-and-a-half years and has raised a total of US$76m in funding. Its games, such as Social City, Sorority Life and Market Street, pull in some 42 million players each month.
Zynga by contrast, which is behind titles including Farmville, Mafia Wars and FrontierVille, claims some 200 million and has been valued at upwards of US$4bn. The company is expected to float. Playfish, best known for Pet Society, had around 60 million monthly players when Electronic Arts (EA) snapped it up for about US$400m last November.
“We see strong growth potential in bringing together Playdom’s talented team and capabilities with our great creative properties, people and world-renowned brands like Disney, ABC, ESPN and Marvel,” said Disney president and CEO Robert Iger.
“We are at the start of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way people of all ages play games with their friends across devices, platforms and geographical boundaries,” added Playdom CEO and former EA chief operating officer John Pleasants.
The Playdom buy-out is the latest in a string of acquisitions for Disney Interactive Media Group (DIMG) and Pleasants will report to the division’s president Steve Wadsworth.
Earlier this month DIMG bought out mobile content developer Tapulous and last September acquired Halo videogames maker Wideload. It paid around US$18m for Canadian website owner Kaboose in April last year and an undisclosed sum for web design company Kerpoof a couple of months before.
Club Penguin was the Mouse’s major play in the online arena, snapped up for up to US$700m in 2007, but this May the business missed its earn-out targets for the second year running.