EA has a long history of acquiring other developers and distributors. Sometimes, the acquisitions prove to be a big commercial success for the publisher, with excellent titles released along the way. Although some mourn the loss of BioWare as an independent body, it’s hard to deny that the developer has created some excellent games since it was acquired by EA alongside Pandemic in 2007. After all, Dragon Age: Inquisition succeeds in nearly every respect.
Unfortunately, not every takeover has led to BioWare’s level of success. Bullfrog, the developer responsible for the Theme Park and Dungeon Keeper franchises, was acquired in 1997, and the company eventually disappeared under the name of EA UK. Then, of course, there’s Westwood Studios, creator of Command & Conquer. The developer was bought out by EA in 1998, and was liquidated in 2003. The last Command & Conquer main title was a shell of what the series had once been and the latest iteration was converted into a free-to-play beta before being canned as well. We won’t even get into Origin and the Wing Commander franchise…
Now, it appears that EA may take on a different strategy when it comes to acquisitions. Speaking at the Credit Suisse Annual Technology Conference, EA’s CFO Blake Jorgensen revealed that the publisher could be taking a step back from making high-profile developer buyouts. Jorgensen admitted that the company had only seen “marginal” success in its acquisition history, and that EA’s future could be based on internal talent.
“I think our history with acquisitions is somewhat marginal in performance,” said Jorgensen when asked about any potential acquisitions EA had targeted. “We have some that are spectacular, and some that didn’t do so well.” Jorgensen also revealed that the acquisition strategy makes it difficult to manage the “headcount business” of the industry, but did not rule out future buyouts. “It doesn’t mean we won’t do them, but I think where we’ve been most successful is in smaller acquisitions that we’ve integrated very quickly.”
Jorgensen discussed the strategy that EA would now be taking. He revealed that he was a “huge believer” in EA’s current talent, and stated that the publisher had “great opportunities” within the organisation. Jorgensen revealed that instead of taking part in large acquisitions, there would be a focus on finding great ideas, “either through our own development or through licensed IP.” Jorgensen named the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront reboot as an example, stating that the work that DICE had done was “much more powerful than trying to go buy something and trying to integrate it at very high risk.”
A step away from acquisitions would make a huge change to EA’s business strategy. Since 1992, the publisher has averaged at least one buyout a year, with as many as 4 coming in a single year. Its last major acquisition was casual title developer PopCap for a staggering $750 million in 2011. Here’s hoping we do see a different EA in coming years, with more of a focus on new IPs and developing talent in-house.
What do you make of this news? Do you think EA is right to focus on building content with its current studios? Which EA acquisitions have proved to be the most successful? And which failed acquisition do you feel to be the biggest waste of potential? Let us know in the comments below.