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Deal spreads PopCap titles to Sony Ericsson devices around the world

by Phil Hornshaw

A new deal between massive casual games developer PopCap and smartphone maker Sony Ericsson will soon see titles like Plants vs. Zombies showing up on Xperia models all over the world. This comes on the heals of PopCap being acquired by Electronic Arts earlier this month.

The deal, announced today, allows for Sony Ericsson to include a set of three pre-loaded games on its Xperia mini and Xperia mini pro smartphone models. The suite is referred to as “Games by PopCap” and contains versions of the uber-popular Plants vs. Zombies, the award-winning Chuzzle and puzzle title Peggle. Chuzzle will be available to Xperia mini and mini pro owners in its entirety, while Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies will be “unlimited trial versions,” according to a press release from PopCap. Users can opt to purchase the full versions of those two games directly from the suite.

The deal doesn’t bring new games to the table – Plants vs. Zombies, Chuzzle and Peggle all recently became available to Android users, exclusively in the Amazon Appstore, for $2.99 each. But the deal does bring PopCap titles to European Android users for the first time, and according to the press release, the deal is “exclusive.” That suggests that, at least for a time, the only place European PopCap fans might be able to snag Chuzzle, Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies on their Android devices will be from purchasing one of Sony Ericsson’s devices.

Landmark deal for EA subsidiary

This is also the first time an Electronic Arts subsidiary has offered preloaded titles on a device. EA, one of the biggest video game publishers in the market both in traditional gaming as well as mobile gaming, recently agreed to acquire PopCap for $750 million in cash and more than $1 billion after earn-outs and stocks are thrown in. PopCap’s deal with Sony Ericsson suggests that the casual game maker really will be mostly independent, something EA has said will be the case following the deal; it also could suggest that EA might be willing to make more exclusive deals with device makers and carriers going forward.

For EA’s part, the company is working hard to get a grip on the mobile sphere. It’s working on becoming a strong force in Apple’s iTunes App Store and is expanding games to Android steadily. It is also rolling out its new Origin online store, which will handle apps as well as traditional PC game downloads, both for the App Store and for Android users.

The preloaded games will start showing up on Xperia minis and mini pros later this summer. Whether the deal will have greater implications for the future of either EA or PopCap can’t be certain, but this new deal does expand PopCap titles to a whole new market, with more such moves likely on their way.