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Issue #97: What if Apple bought EA? 🧐

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So, there are speculations that Apple might be interested in buying Electronic Arts (or EA as they brand themselves), a big games company. It’s one of the gigantic ones, known for the EA Sports line, as well as franchises such as Need for Speed, The Sims, Apex Legends (recently launched on mobile, by the way), and Battlefield. EA is looking to sell in the wake of the mammoth Activision Blizzard deal, where Microsoft paid $68.7 billion.

One of the potential buyers is Apple. There have been talks, reports say, although how serious those talks have been, or are, is unknown at this time. EA is surely looking for a serious payday, although it’s hard to see them being worth as much as Activision Blizzard these days. Other people can probably guess better than I, so I’ll refrain, but suffice to say, whoever picks up EA will have to have a deep wallet.

Apple has a deep wallet. They’re also notoriously bad at games, despite raking in cash on games through the App Store.

So, does EA make sense for Apple, and what would happen if they bought them?

Apple’s sorry gaming history

Did you know that Apple once made a games console? It was called the Pippin, and it failed miserably. The Apple Pippin was manufactured by Bandai, cost $600 whereas the Nintendo 64 was $200, and got almost no games at all. This was a flop, obviously.

The Apple Pippin with its controller

Before that, people played games on their Macintoshes. The first-person shooter Marathon is something of a classic, at least if you’re a die-hard gamer limited to Macs, and also old. The options were, and are, scarce for gamers, in comparison to the Windows market. PC gaming includes Macs, and it’s a lot better today, but it’s night and day when you compare games for macOS, with Windows offerings.

Mobile and tablet are a different thing. Games generate the most on the App Store, making it a great deal for Apple. Most of those games aren’t developed by Apple, however, and while there are ambitious titles and ports available, as well as innovative new games, mobile gaming is mostly a sorry affair. Again, this is in comparison with the other options out there, which obviously also includes Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation, and Nintendo’s Switch.

Apple Arcade is arguably the first good thing Apple has managed to produce for gamers. While it’s a bit of a hit-and-miss situation, there are definitely some great games on there. Arcade is a bargain, too, especially if you’re already paying for several Apple services – you’ll basically get it for free with the Apple One subscription.

Apple Arcade is obviously where an EA purchase would make the most difference. Apple could offer Battlefield games for free with the Arcade subscription, for example, while offering them as premium titles for everybody else.

Will Apple buy EA?

There’s no doubt that Apple could buy EA. They could pay cash, even – it’s the wealthiest tech company in the world. The question is, would they want to, and would EA want to be sold to Apple?

Pros of purchase

  • Further strengthen Apple Arcade.
  • Push AAA titles to the Mac platform.
  • Strong IPs that could go outside of gaming (i.e., TV shows).
  • Access to studios like DICE and

The cons

  • Possible antitrust nightmare, EA’s a big company, so there’d likely be concerns.
  • Gamer backlash unless Apple continues to support non-Apple platforms.
  • The EA price tag will no doubt be high.
  • Most of the current portfolio isn’t available for Apple devices.

Finally, it’s extremely unlikely that Apple would buy EA. It’s just not a great fit, given that EA is the quintessential multi-platform games company. If Apple had a games console, like Microsoft does with the Xbox platform, then it’s make more sense. Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard gave them Bethesda, too, which means that upcoming titles will be Xbox, and Xbox Games Pass, first – that includes hyped titles like Starfield. A similar proposition for Apple would certainly strengthen the company’s stance among gamers, but the thing is, Apple doesn’t have that sort of existing infrastructure. Someone who’s waiting for the next Star Wars Battlefront game won’t want to swap out the mouse and keyboard for touchscreen controls on an iPad.

However, if Apple intends to take Apple TV further, with a “games edition” or something, which also ships a controller, then sure. There are plenty of great games on Apple Arcade with controller support, and they work well enough on an Apple TV 4K. Apple fans have been dreaming about this for years, but it’s been wishful thinking, highly unlikely.

I don’t think Apple will buy EA. If they do, it’s for all those things, and one more, that I truly think is a great fit for Apple, especially in a VR/AR sense: The Sims. I just don’t see Apple paying for a studio in this sense.

What are the odds Apple will buy EA? Small, non-existent, but what if they did…? It’s an interesting proposition.

I’ll see you next week.

Thord D. Hedengren