Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello isn't content to sit idly by twiddling his thumbs until retirement. He'd rather spend as much as possible to keep his company relevant to the vanishing-attention-span generation of males whose spending pads his pension. They're interested in fast cars and sports — which makes Riccitiello keenly interested in EA rival Take-Two. Riccitiello has placed a $2 billion bid on Take-Two Interactive, the notorious publisher of the Grand Theft Auto series.
After Strauss Zelnick, Take-Two's executive chairman, refused to play, Riccitiello took the proposal public Sunday. Riccitiello is looking to boost gross profits, which nine months into fiscal year 2007 have seen a 20 percent dip. Take-Two's Grand Theft Auto is thought to be one of the most lucrative franchises in videogames. The deal would grant EA rights to the series, whose latest edition, Grand Theft Auto IV, is slated for an April 29 release. The pending launch, of course, is why Riccitiello is desperate to close the deal now — and why Zelnick is calling the bid "opportunistic."
Its timing may seem curious. The proposed takeover comes on the heels of the $860 million acquisition of BioWare and Pandemic Studios last October. But since then, Activision has merged with Vivendi's Blizzard. And videogames are a fast-moving business. Games age almost as quickly as their customers.
Besides GTA, Take-Two's 2K Sports division is the only real competitor to EA Sports. Take-Two also owns a few other highly regarded titles, including Bioshock, but none of them compare to GTA and the sports titles. Take-Two, of course, isn't in the best financial health. It's been in the red since 2005 — its latest loss totaled $138.4 million in 2007. It's also been plagued by legal trouble thanks to a sex mini-game embedded in Grand Theft Auto III: San Andreas.