Fun Facts From EA's Annual Report

May 22, 2009 -

The annual report of game publishing giant Electronic Arts landed in GP's inbox this morning. Typically, reading through these things is a surefire remedy for insomnia, but EA's contains a few tidbits worth mentioning.

1.) EA's failed bid to gobble up Take-Two cost the company $21 million:

As a result of the terminated discussions [with T2], we recognized $21 million in related costs consisting of legal, banking and other consulting fees...

2.) EA uses DRM (you knew that) and is watching for piracy online:

We typically distribute our PC products using copy protection technology, digital rights management technology or other technological protection measures to prevent piracy... We are actively engaged in enforcement and other activities to protect against unauthorized copying and piracy, including monitoring online channels for distribution of pirated copies, and participating in various industry-wide enforcement initiatives, education programs and legislative activity around the world.

3.) Only 3% of EA employees are unionized, and they all work for DICE:

As of March 31, 2009, we had approximately 9,100 regular, full-time employees, of whom over 5,100 were outside the United States... Approximately 3 percent of our employees, all of whom work for DICE, our Swedish development studio, are represented by a union, guild or other collective bargaining organization.

4.) GameStop and Wal-Mart are EA's biggest customers; each accounts for 14% of EA sales:

Worldwide, we had direct sales to two customers, GameStop Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which each represented approximately 14 percent of total net revenue for the fiscal year... the concentration of our sales in one, or a few, large customers could lead to a short-term disruption in our sales if one or more of these customers significantly reduced their purchases or ceased to carry our products...

5.) EA worries about game content legislation and its potential effect on sales:

Legislation is continually being introduced in the United States... for the establishment of government mandated rating requirements or restrictions on distribution of entertainment software based on content... Other countries have adopted or are considering laws regulating or mandating ratings requirements...  Adoption of government ratings system or restrictions... could harm our business by limiting the products we are able to offer to our customers...

6.) EA worries about falling victim to a Hot Coffee incident but has taken steps to prevent it from happening:

If one or more of our titles were found to contain hidden, objectionable content, our business could suffer... Retailers have on occasion reacted to the discovery of such hidden content by removing these games from their shelves, refusing to sell them, and demanding that their publishers accept them as product returns.

We have implemented preventative measures designed to reduce the possibility of hidden, objectionable content from appearing in the video games we publish. Nonetheless, these preventative measures are subject to human error, circumvention, overriding, and reasonable resource constraints.

Apple Aiming to Take a Big Bite of EA?

May 5, 2009 -

A brief item on TheStreet.com mentions that there are rumors afoot that Apple may be fueling a major move into gaming by attempting to acquire publishing giant Electronic Arts.

Commenting on the speculation, Edge Online notes that Apple has recently hired some execs with game biz background.

TechNewsWorld has more speculation on Apple's gaming ambitions.

UPDATE: VG247 reports that Wedbush-Morgan analyst Michael Pachter pulled no punches in his assessment of the Apple-EA rumor:

To say that it is idiotic would be an insult to all idiots.

Pachter was also blunt in comments to Gamasutra:

Sounds retarded to me.

Apple could buy Warner Music for around $3 billion, and control 20 percent of all recorded music. That makes more sense to their current business model than buying EA for more than twice that, doesn't it?

I don't want to start a rumor, but want to point out that Apple doesn't own any entertainment content, so I don't know why they would feel compelled to enter a new business unrelated to their current product slate.

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Take-Two Buyout Rumors Return

April 13, 2009 -

Take-Two, which managed to avoid being assimilated by Electronic Arts in last year's long-running takeover saga, may be the target of a new buyout, according to Barron's.

The financial news service attributes a recent rise in the share price of TTWO to takeover rumors:

Take-Two Interactive (TTWO) shares are up sharply for the second straight session on a revival of rumors that the video game company might be a takeover target... Last Thursday, the stock was hopping on what TheFlyOnTheWall.com [subscription req.] described as “renewed takeover chatter.” That apparently continues today.

As I post this, TTWO is up to 9.45, even though Wall Street itself is down.

UPDATE: Reached for comment by GamePolitics, Wedbush-Morgan financial analyst Michael Pachter pooh-poohed T2 takeover rumors:

I don’t see anyone making a move, given that management rejected EA’s $26 offer [last year]. It’s hard to see how anyone would pay more in this market, and I don’t know that Take-Two management would entertain an offer lower than $26 given their rejection of EA’s offer.

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UGO Acquires 1UP... Mass Layoffs... EGM Dead

January 7, 2009 -

As numerous sources are reporting, Hearst's UGO Entertainment has acquired 1UP from financially-troubled Ziff-Davis. Along with the 1UP sale, ZD is ceasing publication of Entertainment Gaming Monthly. Perhaps the best-known print publication for video game enthusiasts, EGM has been in operation since 1989.

Joystiq has a list of 1UP and EGM staffers who have lost their jobs. Among these are some well-known game journos, including James "Milkman" Mielke and Shane Bettenhausen.

Reactions have come swiftly and many are saddened by the layoffs:

-Kombo has a list of Twitter accounts wherein several former and current 1UP and EGM staffers are tweeting about the situation.

-Former Computer Gaming World (yet another defunct ZD mag) editor Jeff Green blogged:

A sad day for all the folks at 1up.com... my condolences go out to all those now looking for work. The list of people they decided to lay off is just crazy. Don't ask me to make any sense of it, because I don't see any.

R.I.P. 1up.com. They may keep your URL, there, but we all know better.

-God of War designer David Jaffe blogged as well:

My heart goes out to all those 1up and EGM folks who lost their jobs today. It's a real shame considering what an important part you guys/gals have played in the US gaming world all these years. Thanks for the many, many years of great, entertaining work.

-Valve Software tweeted a condolence:

Sorry to see things go down like that. Best of luck to the guys at EGM and GV

UPDATE: Jeff Green added a bit of a rant...

UPDATE 2: EA's Peter Moore weighs in:

I was saddened to see the announcement this afternoon that Electronic Gaming Monthly is closing its doors as  part of the Hearst acquisition of the Ziff Davis Media gaming assets. EGM has been a print publication mainstay of our industry for two decades, and while the real-time nature of web sites has put long-lead magazines and print media in general across most genres under real pressure, it is a sad day when such an important icon in gaming has to say goodbye.

 

 

 

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What if the EA - T2 Merger Had Gone Through? We Ask Pachter

December 22, 2008 -

As GamePolitics readers know, Electronic Arts pursued the acquisition of Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive for the better part of 2008.

Timing, as they say, is everything.

The deal ultimately fell through when EA walked away from the table in mid-September.  Since then the global economy has gone into the toilet and the supposedly recession-proof video game industry has shown that it really isn't.

But when EA made its offer to acquire T2 at $25.74 per share, the economy had not yet tanked. No one even dreamed of a Wall Street bailout, much less a potential bailout of the U.S. auto industry.

What if the deal had gone through, obligating EA to lay out huge piles of cash? Would it be like burning your savings on a new car and finding out the next day that your hours were being cut back at your job? Since the merger fell apart, EA has definitely hit a rough patch, laying off a thousand workers and shuttering some of its game development studios.

As for Take-Two, their stock will open south of $9 this morning. Since EA bailed on the merger, TTWO has plummeted, losing about 2/3 of its equity value in 90 days.

From here it seems like T2 would have been better off if the deal had gone through, but EA would have been in worse shape. But we're not experts, so we put the question to Wedbush-Morgan analyst Michael Pachter. Here's what Pachter told us:

[My answer is] totally speculative.  Had EA completed the deal, the TTWO shareholders at the time would have benefited, but other than Oppenheimer (who has been listed as a large shareholder the entire time), it's hard to say that there are many of those other shareholders still around.  I think that many of the shareholders who bought to take advantage of EA's offer were sellers when the offer was withdrawn, so only a small number of current shareholders, including Oppenheimer, were actually involved in the stock back then.

EA would be a mess had it completed the deal.  In addition to its own restructuring (which is just getting underway), the company would have been faced with re-signing the Housers and with cutting significant costs out of Take-Two in order to fully achieve synergies from the deal. 

I don't think a low cash balance [due to the T2 purchase] would be particularly relevant, since EA has a line of credit and is not burning significant cash, but it would have forced decisive action.

Notwithstanding, this is purely speculative.  I think EA would be a stronger company if combined with Take-Two, as the latter company has several valuable franchises and a combination would have given EA a near monopoly in sports.  Had they signed the Housers, EA would have been well-positioned to develop incremental new IP, and would have had one of the strongest franchises around in GTA.

But it didn't happen, and doesn't look like it will over the near term

EA's Bid to Buy T2 Figures in Wall Street Insider Trading Charges

December 18, 2008 -

According to the Dow-Jones Newswire, federal investigators charged four men with today insider stock trading. One of the transactions named in the indictments was EA's bid to acquire T2 earlier this year.

No one from either Take-Two Interactive or Electronic Arts has been charged and there is no indication that the publishers had any inkling of the illegal stock trades. If government regulators are correct, however, information leaks from the Brunswick Group, a P.R. firm working on behalf of Take-Two, contributed to the crime. From the Dow-Jones report:

Four people were charged criminally Thursday in an insider trading scheme involving information about mergers or stock buybacks obtained from a Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. broker's wife who worked at communications firm Brunswick Group LLC...

 

According to court documents, they were among a group of clients and friends tipped by Matthew C. Devlin, a Lehman Brothers broker, about 12 planned deals before their public announcements between 2005 and 2008...

 

Devlin allegedly obtained the information from his wife, who worked at communications firm Brunswick Group, according to court filings. The deals included... Electronic Arts Inc.'s (ERTS) hostile bid earlier this year for Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (TTWO)...

 

Devlin has been charged criminally and in the SEC case... [other defendants]... referred to Devlin or his wife as the "golden goose," according to court documents.

The Guardian reports that there is no suggestion that Devlin's wife, Nina, a partner at Brunswick, knew of her husband's alleged stock market manipulations.

Disney Might Buy EA, Says Wall Street Journal

December 11, 2008 -

Has the hunter become the hunted?

Electronic Arts, which pursued GTA publisher Take-Two Interactive for much of 2008, may now be an acquisition target of Disney.

According to financial website The Motley Fool, the Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street column suggested yesterday that Disney might be eyeing EA. The WSJ apparently based their speculation on comments made by Disney's Chief Financial Officer during a conference call on Tuesday. From the Fool:

Asked if Disney's focus would be on developing in-house games over buying more developers, [CFO Tom] Staggs responded, "I don't want you to conclude that those are in the long term mutually exclusive." He went on to say that a "strategic and attractive" purchase would be "a possibility" for the family entertainment giant.

Did he say Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS)? No. However, a combination of EA's battered share price and Disney's desire to ramp up its gaming presence dovetail nicely in the rumor mill.

The Motley Fool offers five reasons why a Disney takeover of EA makes sense:

  • Disney has acquired game companies before (Avalanche Studios, Club Penguin)
  • EA Sports and Disney's ESPN would have synergy
  • Disney's MMOs haven't worked out so far, but EA has Warhammer
  • Racing is a major theme is Disney's films and parks; EA has Need For Speed
  • Convergence of Disney's theme parks with EA's strong IP

Still, The Motley Fool views the chances of a Disney-EA deal as slim. And, it's pretty clear that, when it talks about acquisitions, family-friendly Disney isn't thinking of Take-Two and GTA.

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Wall Street Journal Compares Crooked Ill Guv's Mistakes to Failed EA-T2 Deal

December 10, 2008 -

Yesterday, GamePolitics pointed out the hypocrisy of indicted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who publicly fretted about Grand Theft Auto's cartoon crime but himself managed to carry out what the U.S. Attorney alleges was a political corruption crime spree.

The Wall Street Journal's Deal Journal blog has come up with a different video game angle on the Blagojevich affair, remarking that the disgraved Guv should have paid more attention to this year's failed EA-Take-Two merger:

Before Illinois Gov. Blagojevich allegedly tried to auction off President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder, he might have taken a closer look at the state of deal making this year–which would have told him it never would have worked.

 

Deal Journal compiled some lessons from this year’s M&A market that might have kept Blogajevich from following temptation into a federal indictment.

Don’t assume you are the only game in town: If prosecutors are right, Blagojevich, accused of looking for either lucre or favors in return for Obama’s Senate seat, made an oft-seen mistake: he believed he had more leverage than he did. Take-Two Interactive Software–maker of the Grand Theft Auto videogame–made the same mistake when it pushed rival Electronic Arts to bid up, up, up for the company. But EA tired of being toyed with and walked away.

The WSJ also jokingly relates Blagojevich's relentless pursuit of graft to several other non-game biz deals.

Weakened Eidos in Play? ...EA, Ubisoft Said to be Circling

December 1, 2008 -

SCi, the parent company of Tomb Raider publisher Eidos, is apparently a takeover target.

UK newspaper the Daily Mail reports that Electronic Arts and Ubisoft are both considering an acquisition of the troubled firm.

Given that SCi is on hard times, EA and Ubi are no doubt enticed by the prospect of picking up Eidos's popular Tomb Raider and Hitman franchises on the cheap. From the Daily Mail story:

[The merger talk] follows a nightmare year for the firm in which its losses have quadrupled and the share price has slumped 92 per cent... From a peak of £1billion at the height of the dotcom boom it is worth just £50million today... As recently as a year ago the games developer was worth more than £600million.

But a series of self-inflicted wounds coupled with the precipitous slide in the stock market have conspired to drag the shares down from a 12 month peak of 243p to just 18½p yesterday...

The source said the suitors have been waiting to see if SCi would deliver the latest Lara Croft game, which has been delayed, but finally came out this week in time for Christmas.

Via: Edge Online

 

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Mad Money's Cramer Adds Take-Two's Zelnick to Wall of Shame

October 21, 2008 -

Frenetic money man Jim Cramer named Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick to the "Wall of Shame" on his popular Mad Money program yesterday.

Cramer blasted Zelnick and a pair of CEOs from other companies for failing to accept takeover bids and then seeing their stock values collapse.

As has been widely reported on GamePolitics and other sites, Zelnick rejected a $25.74 acquisistion offer from Electronic Arts earlier this year. EA eventually walked away from the deal. The Grand Theft Auto publisher's stock (TTWO) will open at 13.15 this morning. Among Cramer's trashing of the T2 boss:

[EA's offer was] an offer no sane man can refuse. But Strauss Zelnick, Take-two's chairman did just that...

Welcome to the Wall of Shame, Strauss Zelnick. You managed to take a sure thing, a $25 stock and turn it into a $13 one. That takes talent.

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EA CEO: Half of Spore DRM Protesters Were Pirates

October 15, 2008 -

Over at Gamasutra, Leigh Alexander serves up a revealing interview with John Riccitiello.

The Electronic Arts CEO dishes on the Spore DRM controversy, EA's abortive merger attempt with Take-Two, and EA's reputation in the gaming community.

Most noteworthy are Riccitiello's comments on the furor whipped up by Spore's much-maligned copy protection scheme:

I personally hate DRM. I don’t like the whole concept; it can be a little bit cumbersome. But I don’t like locks on my door, and I don’t like to use keys in my car... I’d like to live in a world where there are no passports. Unfortunately, we don’t – and I think the vast majority of people voted with their wallets and went out and bought Spore...

 

Everyone gets that we need some level of protection, or we’re going to be in business for free... [But it was] a minority of [anti-DRM] people that orchestrated a great PR program. They picked the highest-profile game they could find. I respect them for the success of their movement.

I'm guessing that half of them were pirates, and the other half were people caught up in something that they didn’t understand. If I’d had a chance to have a conversation with them, they’d have gotten it... There are different ways to do DRM; the most successful is what WoW does. They just charge you by the month.
 

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Take-Two Says it Will Remain Independent

October 2, 2008 -

With EA out of the picture, Take-Two has apparently decided to go it alone.

That word comes by way of a press release issued today by the Grand Theft Auto publisher. Citing "detailed discussions with various interested parties over the last five months," T2 has concluded that stockholders will be best served by the company staying its course.

Chairman Strauss Zelnick is quoted in the press release:

Take-Two’s Board of Directors and management have a clear mandate from stockholders to maximize value. We are strongly positioned creatively, financially and competitively to benefit from the opportunities we see in the fastest growing segment of the entertainment industry.

CEO Ben Feder invoked the success of GTA franchise and cited the rest of T2's catalogue:

Take-Two’s recent performance demonstrates our potential to create value for the long term. We have delivered solid financial results and expanded our portfolio of leading titles, which includes the powerful Grand Theft Auto franchise, as well as 15 other wholly owned brands with sales of more than one million units each.

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Analyst: Take-Two NOT the New Yahoo, Zelnick Secure at Top

September 17, 2008 -

Following the collapse of a proposed merger between Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive, GamePolitics wondered aloud yesterday whether Take-Two might be the second coming of Yahoo. That is, a company which should have accepted a reasonable acquisition offer and saw stockholder equity plummet following its rejection.

Analyst Doug Creutz (left) of Cowen and Co. thinks not. Here's what he told GP when asked if T2 was following in Yahoo's ill-considered footsteps:

I’d say no. YHOO [Yahoo] is clearly a company in decline, with an entrenched management. TTWO [Take-Two] is a company with arguably improving business fundamentals and a management team that I believe was willing to deal at the right price. I also think that MSFT [Microsoft] shareholders were not excited by the prospect of a YHOO acquisition whereas most ERTS [Electronic Arts] shareholders wanted the TTWO deal to happen at a reasonable price.

Nor did Creutz believe that T2 Chairman Strauss Zelnick was in jeopardy in the wake of EA's withdrawal from negotiations:

I don’t think so. Any shareholders who wanted to get out of the stock at $26 (EA’s best offer) had ample opportunity. Anyone who was holding out for a higher price feels the same way as Zelnick – no deal at $26. As long as the business turnaround continues then I think Zelnick is safe.

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Is Take-Two the New Yahoo?

September 16, 2008 -

In failing to accept EA's buyout offer, has Take-Two become the new Yahoo?

Is Strauss Zelnick's position as chairman in jeopardy?

Readers may recall that Yahoo spurned a series of acquisition offers by Microsoft over a five month period earlier this year. If that sounds familiar, Take-Two spurned several EA tender offers over roughly the same time frame.

Microsoft's' interest in Yahoo drove the search firm's stock higher, to the 30 range; Yahoo ultimately stunned Wall Street by refusing MS' 33 per share bid. EA's interest in T2 did the same, pushing TTWO at times into the 26+ range. EA's 25.74 offer remained on the table for months, ridiculed by T2 as undervaluing the GTA publisher.

When MS became frustrated and pulled out, Yahoo stock tanked. Today it wil open at 18.27. On Sunday's news that EA was bailing, T2 plunged 5 points yesterday. Admittedly, some of that might have been helped along by the most brutal day on Wall Street since the 9/11 aftermath.

So why would Zelnick's job be on the line?

It probably isn't - yet. But T2 investors who saw the value of  their shares jump nearly ten points on EA's offer have now given all of those paper profits back with EA's withdrawal. The stock is back where it started. Moreover, a sweetheart deal that would have enriched Zelnick and his management team in the event of an acquisition never sat well with EA. It actually caused EA to lower its tender offer by about 1/4 point and caused bad blood between EA and T2 execs from the get-go.

Now that EA is gone, Zelnick faces some challenges. GTA IV profits are slowing. The Houser brothers will become free agents in February. If they walk, T2 becomes less of a company than it is now. If they stay, T2 will have to pay them a bigger slice of the profits.

We asked Wedbush-Morgan analyst Michael Pachter whether Zelnick might be in jeopardy. His thoughts:

Jeopardy is a strong word. I think that shareholders may be upset that he didn't accept the $26 offer when he had it in hand.  He has some time to demonstrate that there are other interested parties; if he can produce them, I don't think he is in trouble at all.  If he can't, I think that the number of unhappy shareholders will increase.

Financial website The Motley Fool does not see T2 as the new Yahoo, however:

This isn't Microhoo revisited. Take-Two's fundamentals have actually improved since EA went public with its unsolicited offer for Take-Two at $25.74 a share. Grand Theft Auto IV broke records. The BioShock franchise has a sequel on the way, as well as Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski on board to give the property the Hollywood theatrical treatment.

 

This is why I believe that Take-Two will bounce back from this a lot quicker than Yahoo! did after its prolonged courtship with Microsoft came up empty... Take-Two shareholders can't blame executives, because those investors perpetually turned down EA's tender offers. The company can also point to its improving fundamentals.

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Report: Houser Bros. Loomed Large in Collapse of EA-T2 Deal

September 15, 2008 -

gamesindustry.biz reports that the uncertain status of GTA masterminds Sam and Dan Houser (left) may have played a key role in sinking an EA-T2 merger. The brothers' current contract with Take-Two expires in February.

Moreover, as GP has alluded to in the past, chemistry was lacking between EA and T2 execs. Along that line, gamesindustry.biz reports comments by analyst Doug Creutz of Cowen and Co.:

We think EA's decision to walk was motivated by some combination of the following: a desire to appear fiscally responsible after several years of capital misallocation, concern about EA’s ability to retain the development talent at Rockstar, personality conflicts between the management teams of the two companies, and scepticism about Take-Two's multi-year release lineup.

 

The main question mark is the status of Rockstar’s key talent [i.e., Dan and Sam Houser], with their contract due to expire in February 2009.
 

Meanwhile, in a note issued this morning, Wedbush-Morgan analyst Michael Pachter foresees a bidding war for the Housers:

While neither [Houser brother] writes game code, we believe that they are analogous to the director of a Hollywood film, instrumental in determining the final shape of the ultimate games released. We expect a bidding war for the Housers’ services in February 2009, and remain convinced that Take-Two faces two equally unpalatable options: either lose the Housers to another bidder, or pay more to retain them...

 

Should the Housers depart to Activision, Ubisoft, or even to EA, we think that Take-Two will suffer lower future sales of its GTA games. We draw an analogy to EA’s Medal of Honor brand, which saw sales decline by over 40% following the departure of key members of its development teams in 2003. Those teams produced Activision’s Call of Duty franchise, which has consistently outsold Medal of Honor since the departure...

 

On the other hand, should the Housers remain at Take-Two, the price of making future Grand Theft Auto games will go up...

Nor does Pachter anticipate any other publishers stepping up to acquire T2 - again, it's the Houser factor:

We do not think that any offers will come in from third parties. The risk of losing key talent is too great, and the Housers’ contract is up for renewal in February. Should a third party (including EA) be interested in an acquisition, we think that the first step is to secure the services of the Housers. Thus, we do not expect competing offers to materialize until after February 2009, when the status of the Housers’ contract is better understood.

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In Wake of EA Pullout, T2 Stock in Free-Fall

September 15, 2008 -

Reaction has been swift to yesterday's report that EA was giving up on its quest to acquire Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive.

As GP predicted yesterday, Reuters is now reporting Take-Two's stock price has plunged. Indeed, from Friday's close just under 22, as I write this the stock [TTWO] has dropped to 16.44. On the other hand, the market as a whole is experiencing a broad sell-off today as shockwaves from the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the purchase of Merrill-Lynch ripple through Wall Street. At the same time, EA [ERTS] stock is also down from Friday's closing price of 44.99.

Reuters quotes UBS analyst Benjamin Schacter on the EA-T2 situation:

While (Electronic Arts) will not reveal details about its exact reasons for walking, the fact that it did not make any offer after further due diligence will certainly raise some eyebrows.

 

In our view, Ubisoft could be a logical buyer, but a deal would not be easy. Traditional media companies as well as Asian video game publishers-operators might also be interested, but we don't believe that these players are likely to even match EA's prior offer given that none would have synergies in the sports genre.

 

BREAKING: It's Over... EA Gives Up on Take-Two Acquisition

September 14, 2008 -

It's official - Grand Theft Auto V will not be released under the Electronic Arts brand.

EA has just issued a press release announcing that it has decided not to continue its lengthy pursuit of Take-Two Interactive.

The two sides have been talking, but those negotiations appear to have broken down. At this point it's unclear what made EA decide to give up its nearly seven-month long bid to acquire T2. From the EA release:

Electronic Arts... today announced that while EA continues to have a high regard for Take-Two's creative teams and products, after careful consideration, including a management presentation and review of other due diligence materials provided by Take-Two... EA has decided not to make a proposal to acquire Take-Two and has terminated discussions with Take-Two.


EA CEO John Riccitiello (right) commented:

EA is tracking toward a record breaking year. We're launching 15 new games including award-winners like SPORE, Dead Space and Mirror's Edge, great new titles from the Sims, new family titles with Hasbro, and the highest quality slate of EA SPORTS titles on this generation of consoles. We're also expanding beyond our core business with a series of direct-to-consumer launches including Warhammer Online.
 

UPDATE: Take-Two has issued a press release of its own, with chairman Strauss Zelnick (left) saying:

We remain focused on creating value for our stockholders and our consumers. This has been our goal since EA launched its conditional and unsolicited bid six months ago, a bid which was repeatedly rejected by our stockholders. As part of that commitment, we remain actively engaged in discussions with other parties in the context of our formal process to consider strategic alternatives. We're especially proud of the success we've enjoyed over the past eighteen months and we remain confident in our ability to generate value for stockholders.

GP: Expect T2 stock to take a big hit when the markets open in the morning. TTWO closed at 21.65 on Friday amid expectations that an EA-T2 deal would get done somewhere north of the 25.74 tender price that EA offered earlier. Prior to EA's expression of interest, T2 had been trading in the 17 range. With EA now out of the picture, T2 shares will likely be heading south.

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Game Love Triangle: Square-Enix wants Tecmo but Tecmo wants Koei

September 5, 2008 -

Business Week reports that Tecmo, uneasy with the prospect of being acquired by much larger Square Enix, has sought refuge in the arms of fellow small publisher Koei:

When Japanese video game developer Square Enix unveiled its "friendly" offer to buy rival Tecmo last week, analysts and investors applauded. The two companies seemed a natural fit: Square Enix's Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series had a huge following among diehards in Japan, while Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive fighting games were popular in the U.S. and Europe. To sweeten the deal, Square Enix President Yoichi Wada pledged to preserve the Tecmo brand. He gave Tecmo's management a week to think it over.

At the deadline, Tecmo told Square Enix "thanks, but no thanks," and said it was exploring a merger with Koei. From the report:

Tecmo didn't give a reason for going with Koei. But size appears to have been one issue: Rather than getting swallowed up, Tecmo may have wanted something closer to a marriage of equals...

 

Industry executives say Japan's midsize game developers are prime takeover targets. Many of them have a strong record at home but limited exposure overseas. A suitor with a worldwide network—particularly in the U.S. and Europe—could take a niche Japanese developer stuck in a stagnant market and create a global mainstream franchise.

This one's not over, at least not yet. Square Enix has asked Tecmo to explain how Koei's deal was better for shareholders than its offer and may continue its pursuit of Tecmo.

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Rumor: EA Walking Away from Take-Two Negotiations

September 4, 2008 -

Following a volatile Wednesday for Take-Two stock, investment site Seeking Alpha mentions that a rumor floating around Wall Street had EA walking out on its secret merger negotiations with T2:

Yesterday's session featured some strange exchanging of Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (TTWO) shares, just one day before the company is set to release earnings.

 

There was no news released, though Barron's later said that the price decline was due to rumors about Electronic Arts Inc. (ERTS) walking away from merger talks.  ERTS had an executive speak at a conference right around noon.

T2 opened yesterday at 24.51 but dropped as low as 21.34 on the rumor. (note the big dip in the TTWO share price chart for Wednesday afternoon). 

While Seeking Alpha ultimately discounts the rumor, it's known that EA management is not especially fond of the Strauss Zelnick team at T2. That has a lot to do with the rich deal Zelnick put in place for himself and his crew in the event of an acquisition. Given that atmosphere, hardball tactics (such as a walkout) would seem to be in the realm of possibility.

 

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Columnist: Publisher Consolidation Bad for Gamers ...especially EA-T2

August 27, 2008 -

Don Reisinger, who pens The Digital Home column for Cnet, takes a dim view of video game publisher mergers - especially the proposed deal between Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive.

Reisinger believes consolidation results in high profits for pubishers and low-risk, lackluster titles for gamers:

Since the age of consolidation hit the video game industry, it has changed drastically... In fact, consolidation has spawned an industry that's dominated by sequel after sequel and enough first-person shooters and sports games that barely differ from year to year...

 

A quick glance at EA's upcoming lineup of games tells you everything you need to know about consolidation. Aside from Spore, it's dominated by sequels and titles that will do little but provide the same basic experience...

 

And if EA and Take-Two -- two of the biggest culprits of derivative gaming -- combine to form one major developer, this will only get worse.

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EA & Take-Two Begin Secret Negotiations

August 26, 2008 -

Now that the Federal Trade Commission has opted not to place any regulatory hurdles in the way of a potential EA-T2 merger, the two publishers will begin meeting behind closed doors.

An filing made by Electronic Arts with the Securities & Exchange Commission late yesterday reads in part:

On August 25, 2008, [EA] and [T2] entered into the confidentiality agreement contemplated by the letter of August 17, 2008 from Strauss Zelnick, Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Take-Two to John Riccitiello, Chief Executive Officer of EA, and the letter of August 18 from Mr. Riccitiello to Mr. Zelnick.

 

The terms of the confidentiality agreement prohibit each of EA and Take-Two from, among other things, publicly disclosing the status or terms of any discussions or negotiations between EA and Take-Two unless EA or Take-Two notifies the other that it is terminating discussions. As a result, EA does not intend to make any further announcements regarding the status of any discussions or negotiations with Take-Two unless and until discussions between EA and Take-Two have been terminated or such parties have entered into a transaction. As previously disclosed, EA now requires due diligence to support any proposal to acquire Take-Two and there can be no assurance that any proposal, negotiations or transaction will result.

Among other things, EA will be looking at T2's three-year game release schedule. Not a tough one to figure out: GTA V, Bioshock 2. A GTA MMO would be a nice surprise...

16 comments

FTC Okays EA-T2 Merger

August 20, 2008 -

The Federal Trade Commission has posted letters on its website which indicate that it will not oppose a proposed merger between Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive.

The letters, written in government bureaucrat-speak, are dated August 18th and read as follows:

The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition has conducted a non-public investigation to determine whether the acquisition by Electronic Arts Inc. of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. may violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act or Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

 

Upon further review of this matter, it now appears that no additional action by the Commission is warranted at this time. Accordingly, the investigation has been closed. This action is not to be construed as a determination that a violation may not have occurred, just as the pendency of an investigation should not be construed as a determination that a violation has occurred. The Commission reserves the right to take further action as the public interest may require.

With the FTC hurdle apparently out of the way, EA and Take-Two are free to attempt to reach agreement on a takeover.

Via: Reuters

45 comments

Former Turbine CEO Talks to WSJ about EA-T2 Monopoly Threat

August 20, 2008 -

Yesterday we noted a New York Post report on the proposed EA takeover of Take-Two which claimed that the Federal Trade Commission, scheduled to rule on the merger by tomorrow, might require that T2 spin off one or more of its sports franchises so as not to hand EA a stranglehold on the sports segment of the market.

Heidi Moore of the Wall Street Journal digs a little deeper, interviewing Jeff Anderson, CEO of startup online sports gaming service Play Hard Sports (and former Turbine CEO) concerning his view of potential monopoly issues:

It’s in the best interests of consumers to have a choice. I’m always in favor of having more choice in the marketplace. Look at the ESPN football product when it came out. There was no [NFL] exclusivity agreement then. When Take Two changed its price point, people moved toward the Take-Two product and forced EA to reduce its price. You saw how competition can work in the advantage of the consumer.

 

The question we’re looking at, and what the FTC should be looking at, is whether this will reduce competition. If Take-Two’s sports franchise becomes part of EA, will that influence competition for the better or not? And will it influence prices positively or negatively?

 

Generally I’m not a fan of monopolies in the gaming world. We’re interested in providing a new choice to consumers. As a gameplayer, we’d love to see great games produced by these studios. And we’d love to see them compete.

9 comments

NY Post: EA & T2 Trash Talk Despite End to Hostile Bid

August 19, 2008 -

As GamePolitics reported yesterday, EA may have called a cease-fire in its hostile bid to absorb Take-Two Interactive. That development, however, does not mean that the two game publishers are ready to share a hug.

The New York Post reports on snarky (and anonymous) barbs traded between EA and T2:

"To say that EA blinked is a huge understatement," said one source close to the Take-Two camp. "They finally came to their senses and realized this wasn't going to be done their way."

 

A source close to EA countered by suggesting that the company was miffed that it had to make the first overture to Take-Two. The source added that EA officials don't want to negotiate with Take-Two's current management team.

The Post also reports that, while the FTC is expected to bless the proposed merger, it will insist that Take-Two spin off some of its sports franchises, so as not to give EA a complete monopoly on sports games:

Though a deal would combine two of the world's largest video-game publishers, the Federal Trade Commission is expected to give the go-ahead to a potential combination by Thursday on the condition that it divest one or more of its sports gaming franchises, with basketball or hockey being the most likely.

GP: Great mashup (left) of GTA and T2 boss Strauss Zelnick accompanies the NY Post article...

29 comments

Pachter: EA-T2 Deal Turning from Hostile to Friendly

August 18, 2008 -

As we mentioned in the previous story, EA released some surprising info today:

  • it will not renew its tender offer (expiring at midnight) to buy T2 shares at $25.74
  • EA and T2 have been talking, with T2 preparing a secret presentation for EX execs

For expert analysis we turned to Michael Pachter (left) of Wedbush-Morgan who told GP:

It appears that EA is proceeding with a friendly deal.  The two companies exchanged letters over the weekend, with EA saying the offer price would require review (meaning they are inclined to go lower) because the deal cannot be completed before the holidays.  Take-Two's response was an offer of due diligence, including the presentation of non-public information under a non-disclosure agreement, intended to support a higher value.

 

EA accepted the offer of a presentation, and intends to allow its hostile tender offer to expire.  This merely changes the proposal from hostile to friendly, and keeps the pressure on the FTC to rule by Thursday, as previously expected.

 

My guess is that the parties reach an accommodation shortly at a $1 - 2 premium to EA's current $25.74 offer.  We have said this consistently since February 25, and continue to believe a deal gets done this month.  If Take-Two management holds out for a price in the $30s, EA will go hostile again, likely at a price closer to $20.  If Take-Two management negotiates a price below $27.50, I think a deal gets done.

 

The only surprise to me is that EA agreed to go friendly.  I suppose that they figured it was magnanimous to make the attempt, and Take-Two management recognized that this was its last and only opportunity to affect the outcome.  I really expect the parties to reach an agreement close to the $25.74 price (slightly above).

 

I do not expect EA to be impressed with the presentation, which will include a 3-year release schedule and a list of cost control initiatives, but believe that it will allow TTWO management to save face.  EA is unconcerned about cost control, since it will eliminate most operating expense once Take-Two is integrated, and should not be particularly surprised to learn that GTA 5 and BioShock 2 are planned.
 

29 comments

Is EA - Take-Two Deal on the Rocks?

August 18, 2008 -

With its most recent tender offer for Take-Two stock expiring at midnight, EA says that it will not renew the offer. 

It seems, however, that the two companies have been talking. As per a just-issued press release, EA CEO John Riccitiello telephoned T2 chairman Strauss Zelnick on Friday. Zelnick apparently offered to provide EA execs with a secret presentation concerning T2's game schedule for through 2011.

It's unclear what EA's decision not to renew its offer portends. It could be that EA has acquired sufficient T2 stock to seize control. Or, perhaps a new offer with a revised (i.e., lower) price structure is coming. Take-Two stock (TTWO) closed at $24.84 on Friday, nearly a dollar below EA's $25.74 tender offer. As Riccitiello points out, the proposed takeover has dragged past the point where an acquisition of T2 will provide a positive impact for EA's holiday sales, so perhaps the deal is less attractive at this point.

EA also mentioned that the Federal Trade Commission will complete its anti-trust review of the proposed merger by Thursday, August 21st. The press release also included a letter dated today from Riccitiello to Zelnick as well as one Zelnick to Riccitiello dated last Friday:

Here's Riccitiello to Zelnick:

Dear Strauss:

Thank you for taking my call on Friday and for your response letter  on August 17, 2008.

 

As discussed on Friday, given the passage of time, we have to validate the assumptions used in the model to support our offer price of $25.74 per share in cash. In addition, we no longer believe we can integrate Take-Two ahead of the important holiday season. 

 

Accordingly, we require due diligence to support a transaction and are therefore letting the tender offer expire tonight. However, we are pleased to accept your offer to review your management presentation as outlined in your letter.

 

We continue to have great respect for Take-Two's creative teams and products and are hopeful that we can work together to reach a mutually agreed transaction.

And here's Zelnick to Riccitiello, dated yesterday:

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Sega Boss Slams EA over Take-Two Bid

July 31, 2008 -

Sega of America CEO  Simon Jeffrey (left) has issued a bit of a spanking to his counterparts at Electronic Arts over their handling of the never-ending Take-Two takeover bid.

In a wide-ranging interview with Forbes, Jeffrey said:

It feels like EA kind of needs [Take-Two], but it probably shouldn't have made it so public that it really needed it. I think that it's losing some investor confidence; the stock price is at a three-year low. And it seems like EA has been the petulant child instead of the professional market leader. However it's EA, and it's really good at coming back.

Jeffrey praised Activision in the same interview:

[Activision Chairman] Bobby Kotick is one of the smartest people in the business. The way he's constructed Activision is really admirable... Bobby has grown Activision in stages over a long number of years to get to this point. And it's very calculating and very clever the way he's done that. Activision has also managed to be the first company in this business to market games properly. Anyone who can turn a hardcore brand like "Call of Duty" into a 10 million unit seller … is outstanding.

GP: Alas, no talk of the return of the Dreamcast... (sigh)

Via:Virgin Media

9 comments

EA Extends Deadline for Take-Two Shares; Zelnick Says T2 Has "Multiple" Would-be Acquirers

July 21, 2008 -

 

As expected, Electronic Arts has once again extended its deadline for Take-Two Interactive stockholders to tender their shares at $25.74. The new deadline is August 18th.

EA is apparently beginning to make some progress in its bid to acquire T2. The game publisher says that 11,741,339 shares have been tendered under the offer, nearly double the amount turned in when the previous deadline expired in late June. That is almost certainly related to T2's sagging share price of late. The stock has been trading below EA's offer price, making the deal more attractive to shareholders. TTWO closed on Friday at 25.04

This morning's EA press release links the extension to the Federal Trade Commission's review of potential anti-trust implications:

Extending the tender offer allows the FTC review process to continue. The proposed transaction is still subject to certain conditions that include regulatory approval. EA retains the right to terminate the offer if the conditions are not satisfied.

Coming up later today: Take-Two's obligatory press release explaining why, in its view, EA's offer is a bad deal for shareholders.

UPDATE: Wow, that didn't take long. In a press release which followed EA's by less than an hour, Take-Two, as expected, slams EA's offer. T2 chairman Strauss Zelnick alludes to "multiple" suitors, but does not name them (Activision? Ubisoft?):

We are fully engaged in a formal process to evaluate strategic alternatives that have the potential to deliver greater value than EA's inadequate offer. As part of this process, we continue to engage in meaningful discussions with multiple parties, a number of whom have been conducting due diligence.

UPDATE: In a lively interview wiith VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi, EA CEO John Riccitiello touches on the T2 deal:

Having clever verbal sword play about Take-Two doesn’t really matter. I’m not really playing for a headline in the New York Times...

 

I don’t think we’ve played a poker hand. We have expressed our interest. We have made a public bid. We are in the Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust review. All of the information has been disclosed. We’re playing it to the way we’ve said we would play it. There have basically been three moves and there have 6,000 articles on it. It’s sort of amusing. I feel a little bit like those strobe light things where it looks like a guy is moving a lot. The flash goes off but the body doesn’t move. Every time a flash goes off, somebody writes a story on it. To be honest with you, the last time there was news was a couple of months ago.

 

21 comments

EA's Latest Take-Two Offer Expires Today

July 18, 2008 -

A piece in today's New York Post reminds us that EA's most recent renewal of its $25.74 tender offer to acquire Take-Two stock expires today.

The most likely development is a renewed offer by EA.

16 comments

With Vivendi Merger Complete, Will Activision Make a Run at Take-Two?

July 10, 2008 -

The New York Times' Deal Book blog speculates today that Activision Blizzard may be eyeing an acquisition of Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive.

Electronic Arts, of course, has been chasing T2 for most of 2008 and has a tender offer outstanding. EA's problem, however, is that T2 shareholders just aren't jumping on board so far.

Analyst Mike Hickey of Janco Partners told the Deal Book:

We absolutely believe Activision will take a look at Take-Two. If a competitor is for sale, you take a look, and if EA is your real rival, why wouldn't you stir the pot a little bit?

However, UBS Securities analyst Ben Schachter pooh-pooh any such deal:

It is highly unlikely that Activision would try to outbid EA. They have enough on their plate at the moment.

The oft-quoted Michael Pachter of Wedbush-Morgan had his own opinion:

There are only three players involved — EA, the FTC and the arbs. Is EA likely to withdraw or lower their offer? No, because they want Take-Two. The odds of the FTC not approving the deal on market concentration is virtually zero. And if the arbs want to sell the stock, they'll sell the stock — they don't care what [T2 chairman] Strauss Zelnick thinks the stock is worth.

 

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MaskedPixelanteNumber 3: Night Dive was brought to the attention of the public by a massive game recovery, and yet most of their released catalogue consists of games that other people did the hard work of getting re-released.04/17/2014 - 8:46pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 2: If Humongous Entertainment wanted their stuff on Steam, why didn't they talk to their parent company, which does have a number of games published on Steam?04/17/2014 - 8:45pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 1: When Night Dive spent the better part of a year teasing the return of true classics, having their big content dump be edutainment is kind of a kick in the stomach.04/17/2014 - 8:44pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.giantbomb.com/articles/jeff-gerstmann-heads-to-new-york-takes-questions/1100-4900/ He talks about the future games press and the games industry. It is worth your time even though it is a bit long, and stay for the QA. There are some good QA04/17/2014 - 5:28pm
IanCErm so they shouldn't sell edutainment at all? Why?04/17/2014 - 4:42pm
MaskedPixelanteNot that linkable, go onto Steam and there's stuff like Pajama Sam on the front-page, courtesy of Night Dive.04/17/2014 - 4:13pm
Andrew EisenOkay, again, please, please, PLEASE get in a habit of linking to whatever you're talking about.04/17/2014 - 4:05pm
MaskedPixelanteAnother round of Night Dive teasing and promising turns out to be stupid edutainment games. Thanks for wasting all our time, guys. See you never.04/17/2014 - 3:44pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the consequences were not only foreseeable, but very likely. anyone who understood supply demand curvs knew that was going to happen. SF has been a econ/trade hub for the last hundred years.04/17/2014 - 2:45pm
Andrew EisenMixedPixelante - Would you like to expand on that?04/17/2014 - 2:43pm
MaskedPixelanteWell, I am officially done with Night Dive Studios. Unless they can bring something worthwhile back, I'm never buying another game from them.04/17/2014 - 2:29pm
PHX Corphttp://www.msnbc.com/ronan-farrow/watch/video-games-continue-to-break-the-mold-229561923638 Ronan Farrow Daily on Video games breaking the mold04/17/2014 - 2:13pm
NeenekoAh yes, because by building something nice they were just asking for people to come push them out. Consequences are protested all the time when other people are implementing them.04/17/2014 - 2:06pm
Matthew Wilsonok than they should not protest when the consequences of that choice occur.04/17/2014 - 1:06pm
NeenekoIf people want tall buildings, plenty of other cities with them. Part of freedom and markets is communities deciding what they do and do not want built in their collective space.04/17/2014 - 12:55pm
Sora-ChanI realize that they have ways getting around it, but one reason might be due to earthquakes.04/17/2014 - 4:42am
Matthew WilsonSF is a tech/ economic/ trade center it should be mostly tail building. this whole problem is because of the lack of tail buildings. How would having tail apartment buildings destroy SF? having tail buildings has not runed other cities around the US/world04/16/2014 - 10:51pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the issue is you can not build upwards anywhere in SF at the moment, and no you would not. You would bring prices to where they should have been before the market distortion. those prices are not economic or socially healthy.04/16/2014 - 10:46pm
ZippyDSMleeYou still wind up pushing people out of the non high rise aeras but tis least damage you can do all things considered.04/16/2014 - 10:26pm
ZippyDSMleeANd by mindlessly building upward you make it like every place else hurting property prices,ect,ect. You'll have to slowly segment the region into aeras where you will never build upward then alow some aeras to build upward.04/16/2014 - 10:25pm
 

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