Of course, it is always possible to argue that Murray wanted to sell his company to cash out, and EA came along at the right time with the right offer. But again, this doesn't make sense. After spending ten years building up his little empire, why would Murray sell Firemint to EA, of all people? If he truly wanted to exit the business, a sale and bidding process could have been kicked off - or, if it was unsuccessful, at least Murray could have retired to the board and let someone else manage his baby. Hell, he can do what he wants '” the success of his company means he is likely already rich.
One further thing disturbs me. It is clear that EA's offer must have come about relatively recently - otherwise, Firemint would not have merged with Infinite only a few months before. It's as if, with the two companies in the one house, Firemint suddenly made the grade of EA's 'most-wanted' list and an offer became viable to the bean-counters at HQ. This sale seems opportunistic, above all else. Snap up two of Australia's highest-profile independent developers before synergies from their merger kick in and they grow even faster.
Now, most in Australia's video gaming industry will no doubt see the acquisition of Firemint as a win for Murray and his team - recognition that they're able to play with the big boys internationally, and a potential victory in terms of the resources being invested in Australian gaming development.
But (like, no doubt, some of Firemint's staff) I can't help feeling the way I have always felt when seeing something amazing that Australians have built with their own blood, sweat and tears being snatched up by a massive, impersonal, multinational. Like so many Australian companies before it, Firemint has now missed its chance to become something truly great - it has cashed in its chips and joined the mothership.
The road to building large companies in Australia is not easy. It is the hard path. The path of most resistance. And yet, unless enough company founders choose to do it and not to sell out to the multinationals, our nation will never develop the 'smart' economy that so many dream of - as our profits, our brainpower and our best inventions are sucked up by overseas companies who will ultimately see them as little more than a tiny figure, somewhere, on a balance sheet in a boardroom in California.
Murray and Infinite founder Steve Fawkner might still be toasting their financial success this week. But they are no longer doing so alone. Next to them in the pub sits an incredibly overweight American man wearing a cheap suit with his tie undone, guiltily smoking an imported Cuban cigar, with his hands in their pockets fumbling for change, asking them to pass the wedges, and adding another dash of Kentucky bourbon to his brimming glass. That man is EA. And he is now Firemint's future.
Image credit: Alexander Korabelnikov, royalty free