4. Electronic Arts Buys BioWare/Pandemic
Independent game developers BioWare and Pandemic, both of which were already highly successful, decided to merge their companies to form the massive independent developer BioWare/Pandemic in late 2005 via venture capital firm Elevation Partners. In late October of 2007, the surprising news came on the newswires; massive game publisher Electronic Arts had secured a deal to buy BioWare/Pandemic from Elevation at a price of nearly $800 million. It's the largest amount ever for a publisher to buy an independent game development studio.
Of course, BioWare/Pandemic isn't your ordinary developer. Separately BioWare created acclaimed and best selling games like Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and the recently released Mass Effect. Pandemic's line-up of games is nearly as good with titles like the original Merceraries, Full Spectrum Warrior, Destroy All Humans, and Star Wars Battlefront. With the EA purchase, it gets the rights to future Mass Effect games along with the long-in-development fantasy RPG Dragon Age and the still mysterious MMO game (allegedly a new Star Wars MMO). It also gets from Pandemic the upcoming Mercenaries 2, the open world WWII game Saboteur and a number of unnamed projects (including reportedly a Batman movie based action game).
Will the price of BioWare/Pandemic be worth it for EA in the long run? Will the creative spirit that BioWare and Pandemic currently have continue after the EA purchase is finalized? Ultimately the result of this huge acquisition by EA will likely be due to how much freedom they give to the game development studios. If the independent feeling that BioWare and Pandemic had before its EA purchase continues, this could be both a great opportunity for everyone involved.
3. Starcraft II Annnounced
No other new game announcement in 2007 had the immediate impact that Blizzard made in mid-May when it announced during a Korean gaming event that it was finally working on Starcraft II, the long awaited sequel to their landmark PC RTS game. The rumors that Srarcraft II would be announced at the event was given wide press beforehand and the final reveal didn't dissapoint with the battle between the three very different factions continuing in a full 3D engine.
The original Starcraft was a major hit in the US and Europe but it became a true sport in Korea, with Starcraft players in that country becoming huge celebs in their own rights. At this year's BlizzCon in August, attendees got a chance to play an early build of Starcraft II and so far the response has been positive.
As usual with most Blizzard games, the official release date for Starcraft II is "when it's done" but many are expecting that the game will be released for the PC sometime in 2008. It's possible that Blizzard could have the number one and two best selling PC games in 2008; in addition to Starcraft II the company is also working on their second commercial expansion pack to their best selling MMO World of Warcraft.
2. Activision Blizzard Formed
Just a few days before the announcement, Electronic Arts' CEO said in an interview that while there would be other mergers in the game industry, most of them had already taken place. Opem mouth and insert foot just a few days later as Activision and Vivendi made a joint announcement (on a Sunday no less) that Activision would merge with Vivendi Games and form Activision Blizzard in a deal expected to be worth a massive $18 billion; it's the largest planned merger in game history (the deal has yet to officially close as of this writing).
So why merge their companies, especially since both are doing pretty good on their own? Activision is currently riding on huge sales of Guitar Hero III and Call of Duty 4 and Vivendi Games is riding the coattails of their Blizzard brand and its success with World of Warcraft. In short, Activision and Vivendi feel that a combination of their publishers would result in even more profit. While technically Vivendi Games becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision as part of the merger, the combined Activsion Blizzard would be at least 52 percent owned by Vivendi.
With this massive new publisher on the horizon, it stands to reason that there might be even more publisher consolidation in the works. Eidos' parent company SCi has admitted it is in talks with unnamed companies about a possible purchase of Eidos, and Sega execs have hinted they might be on the trail of new game publisher deals. Activision Blizzard will become the largest third-party game publisher in the world, and in 2008 we may see even more activity on that front.