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Electronic Arts has bought gaming website Pogo.com in for $42m.

In a past life, Pogo was the gaming service provider TEN; in this guise, it helped to form the Professional Gamers League before abandoning the fickle hardcore gaming market for mainstream webgames such as card and board games.

Pogo.com boasts 17 million registered members and is one of the stickiest sites on the Net, with users spending an average of three hours on the site each month.

But if no-one's paying, then all the users in the world will do you no good. The recent collapse in the online advertising market seems to have sunk Pogo, which relied heavily on this revenue stream to subsidise their service and offer cash prizes for players.

Earlier this year a $150m deal with Excite@Home fell through, and this weekend EA picked up the ailing site for some loose change it found down the back of the sofa.

The deal is a risky one though - with the current state of the online advertising market the 800 million ad views a month which Pogo claims to get are not going to earn anything like the $25 per thousand which one rather optimistic analyst said would make the deal pay for itself.

Unlike Pogo, EA.com relies on a mixture of advertising revenue and subscription fees, but it will need to convince upwards of 600,000 Pogo users to subscribe to their service to meet their target of breaking even by next spring.

"Pogo's content and traffic allow for a great revenue line from advertising and is very compatible with EA's plan to convert players into subscription revenue", according to EA's Jeff Brown, but just how many of those 17 million users were actually active, how many will switch over to EA.com and how many will want to pay for monthly access to premium titles remains to be seen.

Certainly EA.com is in need of a boost though, as rumours suggest that the project has swallowed a huge quantity of cash, including financial penalties for delays in implementation charged by AOL (which uses EA.com games on its own online games channel). ®

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