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sell out!

games companies gobbling up one another, it is the order of the day.

Ron Alpert, Blogger

October 14, 2007

4 Min Read

  Strange times indeed. This console generation is a constant flow of "what the hell, where did THAT come from?" madness left and right out of the great blue yonder. At this point, what the future holds in anyone's guess. I feel bad for those whose jobs it is to survey the landscape of this business, and try to make bold predictions of what the holiday seasons will be like. In recent weeks, we've seen Activision buy up PGR developer Bizarre Creations from under Microsoft's "nose," for an undisclosed sum - though I am sure it was a bit expensive. Note that they have JUST released the 4th iteration of that series. Likewise, the mammoth Halo 3 has just been out (it's been not even a month, I believe!) and the cement's not even set when it's announced that their developer (Bungie), a studio whose name is more-or-less synonomous with "Xbox First Party," is going back to independant (again, for who knows how much money). Between those two annoncements, it's been so dusty I can't recall which was first! The other week, Sony snatched up UK-based developer Evolution Studios, who produced their Motorstorm game for PS3 (and regardless of what the critics say, remains one of the most popular titles for the suffering console, sales and otherwise). 32 Million. That's a lot of moolah... though when you realize it costs around half of that to develop a title anyway, then it doesn't sound so ridiculous. Also considering that Sony gets the tech and all of that with the deal, it beings to make a bit more sense. Sure, not as crazy and groundbreaking as either of the two preceding news items, but certainly eyebrow-raising.

  And then the big double-whammy of this all went down a couple of days ago, mega-congolomerate EA added several more heads to it's Game Development Hydra with the Elevation purchase (Noted/Successful developer-partners, Bioware and Pandemic). 860 million clams. That's so much money that I can't even fathom what that means. How many Aircraft Carriers is that worth? How many Third World Countries could it feed? None, 'cause it's all getting shuttled back into making more FPS and Sims titles, apparently. I am not sure how many teams of development that adds up to (just the ones being absorbed, never mind how large the EA ranks were to begin with). Good? Bad? I say bad - though I wouldn't be saying that if I were working for one of those studios, not this moment. Actually I would likely be strolling across the street to check out which Lamborghini I would like to pick up.

  Anyway you hear about stuff like this, and you consider what companies have "sold out" and which haven't, and why. You take a place like Insomniac - technically, an indie studio, but for all intents and purposes they are Sony 1st party at this point. Heh - do they NEED to get beneath that umbrella? They've got their name solid, they can make "games they want to make," pretty much (or, can they? I notice they've churned out plenty of sequels, regularly). I am curious if Naughty Dog has got the same situation (and also, what that matters). I have worked at several studios, all with their own unique relationships with their respective publishers. I have had the "if we work hard, we could get bought" carrot dangled in front of my face before. Likewise I have had the "we have a publisher who owns us, and so we are stable enough to last through the 'hard times...'" Both circumstances have worked out unfavorably for me, if you get what I am saying. Does it matter? Should I be happy or sad that I've no stake in anything, that no matter where I am employed, I am only tied to the whim of Fate?

  Well.. it has been several years now. My judgement's a little skewed, and I can say this much, it's not "just about the money.." it's about the stability, the environment, the project. Getting along with your team, working with an engine that you can co-exist with. Loving the minute details of everything your hand touches. But, it's also about balance. Business savvy.. getting along politically, and having some foresight when weird times like this happen, and being able to look down the road to see what's next and where you will be when the dust settles..

  Anyway, I can speak in vagueries about this all day, but those like me know my point. We look at these mega-sales where retarded amounts of money are thrown around with seemingly incredible disregard, and we nuts and bolts of these machines look up and cry out "mine, mine!" And we wonder when we'll be able to understand the perspective of those money-tossers. Or, if we would really want to.

  Alright. It's Sunday afternoon, I have work to do. I work for an independant.

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