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Wednesday, 20 August 2008 06:08

EA withdraw Take-Two offer, good for gaming

Electronic Arts make some marvellous games, bending their might to yearly editions of many a sports simulation.  They have also been responsible for developing and publishing some of the biggest franchises in gaming history, and next month Spore hits the EA Stable.  So why is the (now withdrawn) EA push to take over Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two so bad?

Electronic Arts has a vast pool of resources to draw upon.  In both the development field as well as publishing, it is hard not to refer to EA as a Behemoth.

In recent times EA have made a bid for rival publisher Take-Two, as they have done in the past swallowing up companies such as Westwood and others has been a lucrative experience. 

A great way to get successful game franchise’s onto the EA roster, and what juicier roster carrot that Grand Theft Auto? 

Developer RockStar, responsible for some of the most controversial moments in gaming history with GTA, Manhunt and Bully all RockStar Prodgies are the staple of the Take-Two enterprise.

In December last year EA offered US$26 per share to the Take-Two Board who promptly rejected the offer.  Since then the game of cat-and-mouse has been played over a number times, crucially around the peak sales times including the late April release of GTA IV.

In June the market Analyst money was on a US$28 - $US30 bid winning the business, then there was speculation other large game companies such as Guitar Hero’s Activision or Assassin Creed’s Ubisoft would also make a play for Take-Two.  None of which emerged.

The financial too and fro came to a head this week with the combined announcements that EA were withdrawing their latest $2.0 billion offer and at the same time Take-Two offering to mediate.

"We welcome EA into our formal process and look forward to demonstrating to its board the significant strides made by Take-Two since it last undertook a detailed review of our business in early 2007," said Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick.

Surely for a company such as Take-Two, with the talented RockStar developers teaming up with the immense fire power of EA would be an unstoppable force for good in gaming?  Perhaps not.

Much would depend on the underlying contractual set-up, but if one glance’s back through recent EA history things could go pear shaped for a company at the forefront of pushing the interactive entertainment envelope.

Getting exclusive rights to NFL team rosters was great for EA in stifling competition from 2K sports against the top selling Madden American Football franchise, but arguably it also stifled innovation at the same time.

Back in 2004 Electronic Arts admitted to the accusation of failing to reward employee’s for punishing work schedules – earning EA development houses a sweatshop reputation that it still struggles to shake off today.

But more than this, in the world of art that is game development, nothing can work against creativity than big business.

Despite the controversy – and I say this as a parent, the way RockStar push the boundaries of gaming is a required function of keeping the industry ticking over. 

Sure they are not as innovative as some, but while everybody else is heading towards capturing their own slice of the lucrative casual gaming market – Lips/SingStar, Buzz, dancing games, pet management and more, true gaming innovation is being left to only a few.

Granted one of these is the EA sponsored Spore, and the other that springs to mind is the Sony backed LittleBigPlanet, but RockStar take the envelope pushing to a darker more adult corner.

And the industry needs developers such as this to not be hampered by commercial concerns or directed by demographic statistic waving suits. 

The next GTA needs to be dirtier, grittier and tell a compelling adult story, about the only way that EA could be of benefit to RockStar when GTA V hits the streets will be financing the inevitable court battles that will insue.

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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