Double Take

As the excitement ramps up for the upcoming release of "Grand Theft Auto IV," one has to wonder at the insanity of the Take-Two vs. Electronic Arts debacle. The plot surrounding the affair seems almost crazy enough to be straight from the GTA franchise itself.

In one corner, we have EA -- a company that recently proclaimed a desire to become the leading business in the industry, likening itself to the future NBC of video games. Just recently, the company picked up BioWare, and with it the "Mass Effect" franchise. Now company strategists have their eyes on Take-Two.

In the other corner is Take-Two, who house Rockstar Games, and the GTA franchise. Just recently, the company picked up Irrational Games, and with it, the BioShock franchise.

So essentially, three of the most critically acclaimed game properties have already, or very soon will be falling into EA's hands. Just how close?

Leigh Alexander wrote a great piece for Kotaku about the status of the takeover.  Essentially, EA initially made a bid for Take-Two, which was not accepted. EA, determined to get what it wanted, instead startedapproaching stock holders, offering to buy the stock in order to obtain control of more than 50% of the company. Take-Two asked shareholders not to accept the offer. Since then, there have been a few additional measures taken, mostly by Take-Two, but the takeover still has a very serious chance of going through.

What does this mean for gamers? It depends how EA approaches its conquests. In the early conquests of Rome, the Romans focused on total subjugation; however, as the empire grew ever larger, expanding farther from Rome, the focus shifted, and territories were allowed greater local governance with the condition of Roman oversight. If EA chooses the latter strategy, it is likely most gamers will never notice any difference. If it chooses the former, we may be seeing a holiday release of a choose-your-own adventure sandbox game taking place in an underwater failed utopia. For better or worse.

What does this mean for the industry? Well, we may be seeing the inception of a studio era for video game development. If EA becomes large enough, it may press other companies to follow suit. We already had the merger between Blizzard and Activision. Perhaps Ubisoft could get in the mix. Then there's the Japanese companies. Maybe a Capcom/Konami/Square Enix conglomerate?

This is all mostly tongue-in-cheek, but the basic idea is serious. A studio system may be good for the industry. With the development costs for core games these days, the success of a title can make or break a company. The larger the company, the more risk can be taken on a particular title, as even if that one title fails, there are other successes hedging the bet. And as Nintendo has demonstrated so skillfully in the past two years, risk can be very rewarding.

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