Developer consolidation is bad for the video game industry

As EA and Take-Two mull over a possible merger, Don Reisinger explores whether consolidation in the video game industry is a good or bad thing.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

The video game industry is abuzz over the possibility of Take-Two Interactive and Electronic Arts joining hands and become the world's most powerful video game developer. According to EA, such a move will improve its lineup of games and help consolidate its presence in the industry.

Take-Two hasn't been so delighted about EA's acquisition attempts. The company has let the offer deadlines slip countless times--the last happened just nine days ago--but it still can't quite shake EA. And this time around, the companies have signed a confidentiality agreement that would ensure both sides don't go public with the closed-door proceedings.

Some tout this acquisition as the next logical step for a video game industry that's becoming more consolidated. Others say that EA's takeover of Take-Two could actually increase the value of games and create a company that will offer some of the most impressive titles we have ever seen, thanks to the combined efforts of developers.

That sentiment may ring true in some cases, and every now and then, there's a flash of something unique, but if this acquisition becomes a reality and EA swallows up one of the biggest developers in the industry, it spells trouble for gamers and the industry itself.

Consolidation in the video game industry could ruin its ability to offer innovation and compelling titles. Of course, the developers claim that consolidation will give companies the ability to offer more compelling titles, but I just don't see it.

Since the age of consolidation hit the video game industry, it has changed drastically. Granted, sales are higher than they ever have been and more people are playing video games than ever before, but the video games themselves have lost much of their appeal.

In fact, consolidation has spawned an industry that's dominated by sequel after sequel and enough first-person shooters and sports games that barely differ from year to year, that when unique and innovative titles comes along like Spore, the entire industry jumps for joy.

A quick glance at EA's upcoming lineup of games tells you everything you need to know about consolidation. Aside from Spore, it's dominated by sequels and titles that will do little but provide the same basic experience we've come to expect from today's games.

But consolidation has a larger, more important affect on gaming: it turns developers into game lovers that just want to create new and unique titles to developers that are run by suits and care only about the profit potential of each title.

I understand that selling games is a business and unless developers make money, they won't stay open for long. But I also understand that innovation is the brainchild of a developer's desire to do something unique out of love for what they do. And if the hype surrounding Spore and LittleBigPlanet are any indication of the community's desire for innovative titles, I think more developers would be best-served offering those kind of titles.

But alas, that won't happen. Market research and sales figures dictate more sequels and first-person shooters because those sell and most companies believe that there's no reason to risk developing an innovative title that may or may not appeal to consumers when the guaranteed money is in light updates to known titles.

And if EA and Take-Two--two of the biggest culprits of derivative gaming-- combine to form one major developer, this will only get worse.

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