Big Fish Games Paid Nearly $12M in Stock for Self Aware Games

4/18/12Follow @curtwoodward

Updated 6:20 pm
We now know how much stock in Big Fish Games changed hands for the Seattle casual gaming company’s recent acquisition of Oakland, CA-based studio Self Aware Games.

A new regulatory filing by Big Fish, posted earlier today, shows that nearly $12 million worth of Big Fish shares were issued for the acquisition, with about $3.4 million more in shares possible as a follow-up payment for hitting performance targets.

The form itself doesn’t spell out the Self Aware angle specifically. But Big Fish spokeswoman Susan Lusty confirms to Xconomy that the Form D filing reflects the shares Big Fish issued to shareholders of Self Aware’s parent company, Social Concepts, for the acquisition.

There was a cash component to the deal, but Big Fish wouldn’t comment on the price tag. The full price of the acquisition was never disclosed. [Updated to include that there was a cash portion to the deal.]

Also shown in the latest filing is the updated Big Fish board roster. That list now includes Bill Lee, a prominent angel investor and founder of Social Concepts, who became a Big Fish director as a result of the Self Aware deal.

Big Fish both produces its own games and markets the titles of other game studios, in a data-intensive process that helps publishers get their games in front of millions of paying customers.

As founder and chief strategy officer Paul Thelen told us in this recent exclusive interview, the 10-year-old company is making a major push beyond its bread-and-butter market in online and mobile casual games. The Self Aware purchase is part of that strategy, as if gives Big Fish the DNA in social gaming that it didn’t previously have. (Thelen also described the studio’s top-grossing casino game as a “call option” on the stock if online gambling becomes legal and regulated in the U.S.)

Big Fish also is diving into “freemium” games, which give away the main game and make money by selling virtual goods. In addition, Big Fish is ramping up its cloud engineering teams to develop a stronger Netflix-like service for streaming games from its long list of titles.

Big Fish last raised venture capital in the fall of 2008 for a bit of security as the economy was on its way into the Great Recession. That $83 million has sat untouched, and Big Fish is profitable, recording sales growth of about 30 percent to revenue of more than $180 million last year.

Big Fish doesn’t have any firm plans, but it is seen as a future IPO prospect. Thelen added in our interview that, generally speaking, Big Fish also could be an attractive target for an acquiring company at some point. That’s the route Seattle casual game maker PopCap took last year, in a deal with Electronic Arts.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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