Australian poker machine giant Aristocrat has become the world’s second-largest provider of free-to-play online casino-style games after completing a $1.3 billion takeover of a US-based business.
The ASX-listed Aristocrat on Wednesday announced it had acquired Seattle’s Big Fish Games, the creator of several hugely popular mobile and desktop games played by more than 12.4 million active users every month. Among its catalogue of hit gaming titles are Big Fish Casino, Gummy Drop! and Fairway Solitaire.
“The strategic and financial benefits of this acquisition are highly compelling,” Aristocrat chief executive Trevor Croker said.
“Big Fish’s digital-first social casino content and industry leading meta-game capability and applications are highly complementary to Aristocrat’s existing and industry-leading land-based digital content business.”
Aristocrat’s core business has traditionally been manufacturing poker machines and other electronic gaming machines for casinos, pubs and clubs, but the company has notably upped its bet on the online social gaming market in recent years. In August, it announced the purchase of Israeli gaming company Plarium, which makes the popular Vikings: War of Clans game, for $635 million.
And this week’s Big Fish Games acquisition has doubled the size of Aristocrat’s fast-growing digital arm, to now account for 38 per cent of its revenue. It also makes Aristocrat the world’s second-largest provider of “social casino” games, which include free-to-play online poker, slots, table games and bingo, on desktop and mobile devices
“Big Fish will immediately provide scale across our entire digital platform, and our social casino business will become the second largest social casino publisher globally,” Mr Croker said.
The Chinese-owned Playtika is widely considered to be the biggest provider of social casino games.
When Aristocrat first announced the Big Fish acquisition deal, while revealing its full-year results on November 30, investors flagged concerns about Big Fish’s recent financial performance. Aristocrat’s share price plunged nearly 7 per cent that afternoon.
But analysts said they believed the acquisition was reasonable and would build upon Aristocrat’s recent purchases in the online social gaming industry.
Macquarie Research said although Big Fish had delivered just 2 per cent revenue growth in a segment growing by more than 15 per cent a year, the deal could pay off for Aristocrat over time.
“Unlike other recent acquisitions, Big Fish will require greater focus on optimisation but in time should provide a solid growth platform,” Macquarie analysts said.
Big Fish has about 700 employees and five in-house development studios in Seattle and Oakland in the US.
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