Bringing new meaning to the phrase global warming, Rafat Ali broke the story yesterday that Sony is in talks to acquire Club Penguin, the virtual world for kids from British Columbia. Sale price is rumored to be in the range of $450m, a 7.5 multiple of Club Penguin’s reported $60m sales. Though not the stuff of dot-boom days, it’s still a healthy increment and further evidence of the rapidly growing interest in mmogs and virtual worlds appealing to young kids, a market that includes the educational and social Whyville, purely social worlds like Habbo Hotel and Nicktropolis among others. From the PaidContent story:

“Sony is in advanced talks to buy the two-year-old kids focused social gaming (Club Penguin, 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.

“Club Penguin 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.” Story continues here…