Is Disney's big splurge on Playdom a smart move?

minnie mouse registerYesterday, Disney announced that it was spending more than half-a-billion dollars to buy Playdom, the third largest social game publisher responsible for Facebook games, such as Social City, Sorority Life and Wild Ones.

While this move makes it clear that Disney's ready to get elbow-deep in social gaming, one analyst tells Gamasutra that Disney's latest acquisition is looking "very expensive," and that the Mouse House might not get a good return on investment for several reasons, including the fact that social games are losing players by the week. For instance, the most popular Facebook game, FarmVille, dropped roughly 20 million players in a matter of months, and lesser games haven't fared much better.
"We believe the dynamics of the social gaming space are becoming increasingly commoditized and fad-based, and attracting gamers could become an exercise in increasingly aggressive marketing budgets, impacting the economics of the social gaming model," warns the analyst.
Other reasons for questioning Disney's big splurge are historical. The company bought the kid's social gaming site Club Penguin for the same deal several years ago -- offering a huge chunk of cash plus bonus performance incentives. And, the analyst says, Club Penguin never met Disney's expectations, and missed out on banking a few million dollars. Why would Playdom be any different? He also wonders why Disney paid double what EA paid for Playfish last year,. even though Playdom's monthly active user base is 15% smaller -- a great question which I don't expect have answered anytime soon.

Right now, what Disney's plans are with Playdom are still unknown, though I'll speculate Disney will let Playdom keep on with its more successful social games, close Playdom's lesser social games, launch the ESPN games the two companies were already working on together and then start looking in-house at existing brands to see if any of them would work on Facebook. blog readers (yes, you!) have not been enthusiastic about the Playdom takeover by Disney. From the Facebook fanpage:

"Judging from how Disney manages to rewrite (and IMO RUIN) stories for animation, charge too much for their @#$% merchandise which is marketed directly to CHILDREN, I do not want Disney to take over the world or have more social networks or more of anything," one reader says.

"[Disney] just likes to, steal, and buyout other peoples success. Its a very cut throat company, who dosent care about the people who support it," says another.

[Via Gamasutra]
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