I see in the news today that gaming mega-bohemoth monster Electronic Arts has made a hostile bid of $2 billion for Take-Two Interactive Software.
Now, I’m sure Take-Two has plenty of other worthwhile games in the offing, though I can’t think of any offhand. But let’s not beat about the bush; EA is bidding for one computer games franchise; Grand Theft Auto, and nothing else.
Like most guys who’ve been anywhere near the GTA games, I’m a big fan. Few people like shooting up San Andreas quite as much as I do. People frequently declaim GTA, saying that it sets a bad example. On the contrary, gun crime and car theft is dealt with most efficiently in GTA. Stealing a car in real life is never as simple as pressing ‘triangle’ and – hey presto – Audi TT.
But £1 billion for a computer game? Does this not seem a little extreme to anyone else? I still remember the days when games cost £2.99 and came on cassette tape. Back in the eighties you wouldn’t see companies offering the GDP of a small African nation for ‘Treasure Island Dizzy’. At that point Codemasters, then two guys in a bedroom, probably would’ve accepted two bob and a packet of Revels for their entire back-catalogue.
These big mergers are happening all over the gaming industry. Last year Activision bought up Vivendi for the even more amazing sum of $18 billion. Huge development costs – routinely pushing $20 million – are the driving force behind such acquisitions. But the costs are amazing when you think that virtually every such game is a first-person shooter, looks more-or-less the same as the last one, and only slightly tweaks its particle effects and ragdoll physics.
And what we’re seeing here is a continuation of the ‘bigger is better’ mentality that has done so much harm to the Playstation 3. The Nintendo Wii has proven that all you need is a good idea and some old(ish) technology. Buying up the market just seems a little, well… unimaginative.