Video games giant Electronic Arts Inc., the company behind the Madden series of football games, has acquired Edmonton-based Bioware Corp., a video game developer known more for its sci-fi and sorcery role-playing titles.

Electronic Arts (EA) announced on Thursday it has reached an agreement with private equity firm Elevation Partners to acquire VG Holding Corp., the owner of Bioware and Australian-based action game developer Pandemic Studios.

The acquisition gives EA two award-winning game developers working in niches outside the company's strength, which has historically been in sports titles such as the Madden football games. It also produces the popular Sims series of games.

Under the terms of the deal, EA will pay as much as $620 million US in cash to the stockholders of VG Holding Corp. and will issue up to an additional $155 million US in equity to certain employees of VG Holding Corp.

In addition, EA will also assume outstanding VG Holding Corp. stock options and has agreed to lend VG Holding Corp. up to $35 million through the closing of the acquisition.

"These are two of the most respected studios in the industry and I’m glad to be working with them again, said John Riccitiello, EA’s Chief Executive Officer. "They’ll make a strong contribution to our strategic growth initiatives on quality, online gaming and developing new intellectual properties."

Elevation Partners acquired both BioWare Corp. and Pandemic Studios in 2005 and combined them to create BioWare/Pandemic Studios under the ownership of VG Holdings Group.

Bioware still maintains studiosin Edmonton, the city where it was founded in 1995,and in Austin, Texas. The companyhas produced role-playing video games for both personal computers and Microsoft's consoles, including the Dungeons & Dragons-based Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate series and Knights of the Old Republic, based on the Star Wars universe.

The company's next major title is Mass Effect, a futuristic role-playing game developed for the XBox 360.