Sony In Advanced Talks To Buy Kids Social Gaming Service ClubPenguin

Sony is in advanced talks to buy the two-year-old kids focused social gaming ( ClubPenguin, paidContent.org has learned. We have confirmed the talks from senior insiders, but have not been able to confirm the potential price. The talks are exclusive, but still ongoing and could break down, and I’m sure they could have other competitive bid from others.

ClubPenguin is a massive multiplayer online game for children developed by New Horizon Interactive, a software firm based in Kelowna, BC in Canada. It was launched in Oct 2005, and has grown to about 4.5 million visitors in March. Using cartoon penguin avatars, players can converse, play minigames, and participate in other activities with one another in a snow-covered virtual world. The service is subscription-based (about $6 a month), and also has additional e-commerce/shop revenues. A detailed description of the company is here on Wikipedia.

From what we know, the site/service does not have any investment money in it yet. As to what fit it has with Sony, could be a good distribution vehicle for some of Sony Pictures’ kids-focused shows. Or, it might be that it becomes a part of Sony Computer Entertainment America, the gaming unit, which runs the Playstation franchise, or more likely, the Sony Online Entertainment division, which runs Everquest and others. Both Disney and Viacom (though Nickelodeon) have plays n this kids gaming/avatar space: Disney recently relaunched an existing virtual-reality site under a new name: Disney Xtreme Digital (DXD), and Nickelodeon launched its entry, Nicktropolis.com, at the end of January. Nick also bought Neopets in 2005 for about $160 million.

Staci adds: Rafat held back on the numbers when he broke this earlier today but we have some additional information that puts the price in the $450 million range. Some people were intent on floating a $500 million number but our sources peg the price at around $450 million, which would be a 7.5 multiple based on this year’s projected revenue of about $60 million. The self-funded company is already profitable and, according to our information, is operating at about 50 percent margin — ie $30 million in profit this year.

So what could hold the deal back at this point? According to one source, Sony is trying to get a handle on churn. We’ve also been told the founders are interested in committing some profits to charity and Sony wants to be sure its margins are protected. Why Sony? The subscription base is appealing as are the prospects of fitting it in with Playstation and possibly PSP. No obvious ad potential.

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