Monday, December 03, 2007

Activision-Vivendi Merger: Discussed By Smarter People Than Me

N'Gai Croal and Geoff Keighley have discussed the Activision-Vivendi merger in a far more interesting manner than I ever could, so I'm linking to those articles and including a few excerpts:
Conference call with execs

First, excerpts from Geoff Keighley, with my comments following:
Vivendi is about new IP and PC MMOs, and Activision is about repeatable franchises on the consoles. The companies overlap slightly when it comes to licensed and movie games. Perhaps this makes for the perfect merger, but I somewhat question how much synergy we’re really going to see.

There are two ways to look at this, really. One, it's a merger that creates an "everything" company, strong in new IP, MMOs, and consoles. On the other hand, two companies with such different market philosophies must have radically different cultures, and combining them is very risky.

What stings EA the most is not getting a hold of Blizzard. That company has been the apple of EA’s eye for years, but EA was never able to figure out a way to acquire Blizzard/and-or Vivendi.

I'm sure someone in EA at a very high level is being dipped like a crab right now--the water's getting warmer and warmer, and it's going to boil, but he doesn't feel a thing.

Now from N'Gai:
While we're talking Guitar Hero, the winner here is Tim Schaefer and his currently in development game Brutal Legend, which stars Jack Black as a roadie transported to an alternate world where the mythology and iconography of rock is real. As you know, my betting days are over, but it's almost guaranteed that Brutal Legend will feature some sort of compatibility with Guitar Hero. I see all of the songs in the game being playable, and if they're smart, they should steal the co-star mode from Super Mario Galaxy and adapt it to Brutal Legend, where one person plays the game on a controller while two friends or parents assist them by rocking out on their faux guitars. Turn that up to 11 and I think Schaefer's got his first hit in a long time.

That would be the coolest co-op mode ever, and if it's not already planned to be in the game, it should be added right now.

...what this merger really says to me is that EA brought back CEO John Riccitiello later than it should have. Why? Because sometimes it's the deals you don't make that cause your downfall, and nowhere is that more true than in the videogame industry...When Vivendi was looking to sell its videogame unit back in 2003, the major publishers like EA all kicked the tires, but none of them wanted to pull the trigger on the reported $1 billion asking price when the only asset of any perceived value was a pre-World of Warcraft Blizzard. That's somewhat understandable, but how did EA let Red Octane and Harmonix slip through its fingers, long after it was clear that Guitar Hero was a phenomenon and with a former record label exec in worldwide music boss Steve Schnur in EA's own executive suite? I have to imagine that if Riccitiello had returned to EA sooner, there's no way that someone like him, who's been so aggressive on acquisitions, would have let both companies escape his grasp.

EA has made a series of outstanding acquisitions over the years, even if many of those studios wound up getting bled dry by the vampiric machine. It amazes me, though, that they missed acquiring all three companies.

What I can't answer is whether this merger is going to improve the quality of games from Vivendi and/or Activision. Right now, there's no way to tell if this is a race to the top or a race to the bottom.

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