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EA's social games to run on Facebook Credits

The last of the big social gaming companies to sign such an agreement, Playfish's games will be exclusively using Facebook Credits as an e-commerce system for the next five years.

Facebook's Credits currency will be the official payment method in the social-gaming portfolio from games giant Electronic Arts, which consists largely of what it got when it paid $300 million for Playfish last year, according to a five-year agreement that the two companies announced yesterday. Playfish had previously been a holdout among the big social-gaming companies in that it wasn't strictly using Facebook Credits in its games; now, it promises "a simplified, more accessible experience for people who play games and purchase virtual goods on Facebook" through the exclusive use of Credits.

"Since gaming has emerged as the most popular category of applications on Facebook, the natural next step is for EA to broaden its relationship with Facebook and its 500 million users," said Barry Cottle, senior vice president and general manager for EA Interactive. "Our goal is to make the best games tailored specifically to the platforms on which people want to play."

Social games, especially those that are free to play on a basic level but where players have been shelling out cash for virtual items and new levels, were already a massive sensation on Facebook long before Facebook was offering its own virtual currency, and plenty of start-ups offering currency and transaction systems popped up on the platform.

Many were, in theory, cheaper for developers to implement than Facebook's eventual in-house option: Facebook takes a 30 percent cut of transactions made with Credits, which made some developers grumble about giving up that kind of revenue. There were rumors that Zynga, the biggest game developer on Facebook's platform, was considering bailing on Facebook entirely, but then the two signed a five-year agreement that "increases their shared commitment to social gaming on Facebook and expands use of Facebook Credits in Zynga's games."

Playdom, another big social-games manufacturer, signed a similar five-year agreement in July, shortly after its $563 million sale to Disney was announced.

Why has EA taken so long? Playfish's slow adoption of Facebook Credits, one industry source told CNET, has less to do with skepticism of the Facebook Credits model than with bureaucracy: When Facebook Credits started to roll out in full, Playfish was in the thick of the EA acquisition and had to jump through significantly more hoops to put such a deal into action.