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A pedestrian walks past a Zynga office, in San Francisco, Calif., on March 16, 2021.Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press

Take-Two Interactive TTWO-Q said on Monday it would buy Zynga ZNGA-Q for US$11.04-billion in a deal that will bring the smash-hit video game Grand Theft Auto and mobile-friendly FarmVille under one roof as demand for affordable on-the-go gaming surges.

The deal, the largest ever in the sector, will create a gaming powerhouse spanning console, PC and mobile devices and comes as people increasingly gravitate toward smartphone games.

Take-Two, also known for adventure game Red Dead Redemption, offered US$9.86 per share for the deal, representing a 64-per-cent premium to the last closing price of Zynga shares. Including debt, the acquisition is worth US$12.7-billion.

“It’s a bombshell deal ... Zynga was on the list of potential M&A transactions for a long time in the video game business,” said Serkan Toto, chief executive officer of video game consulting firm Kantan Games.

“Take-Two is looking at the industry map and says ‘We have basically nothing here.’ So, a lot of people have been have been expecting Take-Two to make a big deal in mobile to close the gap with competitors like Electronic Arts for example.”

Zynga shares surged 45 per cent, but were still a dollar and change short of the offer price, while Take-Two fell about 15 per cent.

There is a go-shop period of 45 days on the deal, meaning Zynga can negotiate with other buyers for a better offer until Feb. 24.

Zynga shed more than a third of its market value last year – the biggest drop among major game publishers – as it reeled from falling engagement levels and Apple’s move to allow iPhone users to opt out of being tracked by advertisers.

“It is a big price tag for a company that has not consistently produced profits or new blockbusters,” said Erik Gordon, professor at Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.

But with the mobile gaming market likely to reach a size of US$116.4-billion by 2024, according to data firm Newzoo, some analysts said more deals were expected in the sector.

“This trend won’t stop here. Many of the console developers are finding out that creating mobile games is difficult,” D.A. Davidson analyst Franco Granda said.

Crypto and the metaverse are potential growth opportunities, but mobile gaming is proven to work, he said.

Take-Two expects about US$100-million in annual cost savings within the first two years, and more than US$500-million in net bookings over time when the deal closes in mid-2022.

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