News from the virtual world:
- TAKE IT AWAY: Electronic Arts, the Borg collective of video-game publishers, wants to assimilate Take-Two Interactive. But Take-Two says it isn't interested " at least not until April 30, when its sure-to-be-a-blockbuster "Grand Theft Auto IV" goes on sale.
Take-Two chief executive Ben Feder called EA's $2 billion buyout offer "the wrong price at the wrong time." But EA chief executive officer John Riccitiello said: "There can be no certainty that in the future EA or any other buyer would pay the premium we are proposing today."
While much of the coverage of the bid has focused on "GTA IV," Take-Two is also the home of 2K Sports, EA's only major competitor in pro sports simulations. A buyout would bring 2K's baseball, basketball and hockey titles under EA's roof, giving it close to a monopoly on sports games.
There have been a number of intriguing developments since EA made its bid public a week ago. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing revealed that Feder and Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick stand to make a lot of money if the company is bought out. And in a second filing, Take-Two said other companies had made informal buyout overtures, but Take-Two "has not engaged in any substantive discussions with any party (including EA) with respect to a business combination."
- HAD HIS PHIL: One of the more influential characters in video-game history has switched teams. Phil Harrison, the very tall, very bald former president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, left the company after a 15-year tenure that included the launch of the original PlayStation, the dominant years of the PlayStation 2, and the recent struggles of the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3.
Harrison new job is at Infogrames, the French company that holds the Atari trademark. As president of Infogrames Entertainment, Harrison will oversee content development as the struggling Atari tries to transform into an online game company.
At last month's Game Developers Conference, he displayed some frustration over Sony's reluctance to promote social gaming the way Nintendo has with the Wii. "I have been banging the drum about social gaming for a long time, with 'SingStar,' 'EyeToy' and 'Buzz,"' he said. "And our Japanese colleagues said that there is no such thing as social gaming in Japan " people do not play games on the same sofa together in each other's homes. It will never happen. And then out comes the Wii."
- ALLIANCE TROOPS: Is PC gaming dying? Sales continue to slide, even as console games become more popular, and the only PC game to sell more than 1 million copies in North America last year was Activision's "The Burning Crusade," an expansion pack for the massively multiplayer monster "World of Warcraft." Unless a computer game has "Warcraft" or "Sims" in its title, it's not likely to crack the 100,000-sold barrier.
Concern over the industry's future has led some of its biggest companies, including Microsoft, Dell and Intel, to form the PC Gaming Alliance. Among its goals are to promote innovation and "improve the gaming experience for consumers."
The alliance's list of the industry's problems was led by "hardware requirements." In other words, why would you buy the PC version of "Call of Duty 4," knowing that you might have to upgrade your hardware, when you can be positive that the Xbox 360 edition will work just fine on that console? Steep hardware specs stifled sales of Electronic Arts' well-reviewed "Crysis" last year; will the much-anticipated "Spore" suffer the same fate?
- NEW IN STORES: Kratos, the angriest man in video games, goes on another rampage in Sony's "God of War: Chains of Olympus" (PSP). ... The national pastime returns a month early in 2K Sports' "Major League Baseball 2K8" (Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PSP) and Sony's "MLB 08: The Show" (PS3, PS2, PSP). ... Electronic Arts invites you to battle with a buddy in "Army of Two" (360, PS3) or earn a black belt in "Ninja Reflex" (Wii, DS). ... Sega unearths "Mysterious Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer" (DS).