Gaming Guns For Your Phone

EA wants to be big on the small screen

By Scott Budman
|  Monday, Nov 9, 2009  |  Updated 10:36 AM PDT
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Playing games on the small screen.

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On the eve of what could be the biggest video game release of the year for your console (the newest "Call Of Duty"), the biggest video game publisher in the world, Electronic Arts, is thinking much smaller.  It wants to be on your phone in a big way.

Even as "Call Of Duty" sales are expected to be off the hook, this makes sense.  EA (and the rest of the traditional video game industry) has been struggling.  The recession has put a big dent in console games, which typically cost between 20 and 60 dollars a pop.  Instead, the big sales have come on smart phones, where you can get a full-fledged video game for a buck or two .. often, even for free.

Playfish knows this.  The London-based gamer has been hot lately, and is reaping the rewards today with a 275 million dollar payday, thanks to - you guessed it - Electronic Arts.  EA says it will pay cash and some stock to buy Playfish, admitting that it needs to get small, if it wants to stay big.

There are still plenty of people out there with XBoxes and PS3s, with the Nintendo Wii still expected to be a big seller this holiday season.  But the numbers don't lie:  Video game sales are slumping, and yet people are still putting dozens of games onto their phones.  They're easy to get, easy to play (if you don't mind squinting once in a while), they're portable, and perhaps most importantly, they're cheap.

It's the era of "social gaming," and companies like Zynga, NGMoco, and Playfish are out in front.  EA's buyout is an admission that yes, they're behind the trend, but also an admission that they know where the action is.  It's on your phone.

 Scott Budman admits, he plays games on his phone.  He hopes it doesn't make him go blind.

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