DICE. BioWare. Pandemic. Playfish. PopCap. The list of interactive entertainment studios (or their parent companies) purchased by Electronic Arts over the last decade runs the gamut from established triple-A developers to budding social-media game upstarts.

According to a new story published by The New York Times, however, the oft-infamous acquisitioner has, for quite some time, had its eyes set on what would have been its largest grab to date: fellow industry giant Valve.

The article, published yesterday and offering a rare glimpse into the quixotic corporate culture of the Valve, cited testimony from two anonymous Valve employees claiming to have knowledge of private discussions between their firm and Electronic Arts. According to the employees, EA had attempted to purchase Valve for years, and was prepared to value the company at “well over” $1 billion if the talks had ever become substantial.

Valve founder and current head Gabe Newell wouldn’t acknowledge any potential offers, but he indicated that a buyout – no matter how lucrative – wasn’t part of his company’s vision for the future. Conversely, he suggests, the individualistic nature of Valve’s employees would see the studio “disintegrate” before submitting to any outside ownership:

“It’s way more likely we would head in that direction than say, ‘Let’s find some giant company that wants to cash us out and wait two or three years to have our employment agreements terminate.’ ”

Even for Electronic Arts, $1 billion is a lot of money – their 2007 purchase of VG Holding Corp, BioWare and Pandemic Studios’ parent company, holds their buyout record at $775,000,000 – but it’s not surprising to see Newell loathe the idea of acquisition altogether.

There’s no question – playing Half-Life or Portal, considering the smorgasbord of innovation that has been Steam, and even deciphering (or at least trying to) its cryptic approach to public relations – that Valve’s success is a direct result of its distinct originality, its independent and creative spirit in an industry where, like any hotbed of intense competition, it’s easy to be an imitator.

Valve Buyout Attempt EA

And their stock seems to be rising. The NYT article cites Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter, who values Valve today at around $2.5 billion. With the company’s ever-growing interest in hardware design also referenced in the story (we reported this April on Valve’s initiative to create a virtual reality headset); Steam Big Picture looking to further connect the PC with the TV (the Big Picture beta was released today, as it happens); and Half-Life 3 rumors persisting (when are they not?); Valve’s status as an easy buyout candidate appears as it always has with Newell at the head: nonexistent.

Ranters, how would you envision Valve under the wing of Electronic Arts? Do you admire Gabe Newell, if buyout attempt report is accurate, for not cashing out?

Follow me on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.

Source: The New York Times