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In a move announced late yesterday, Electronic Arts announced a deal to purchase VG Holding Corp, the company that owns respected developers Bioware and Pandemic Studios.

The deal, which will cost EA about 775 million, will give them an advantage in key genres, including action, adventure, and roleplaying games (according to MarketWatch).

Leaders of both companies seem optimistic, but how much of this is "appeasing the new boss" BS is unclear. Pandemic president Josh Resnick stated, "Pandemic Studios remains focused on attracting the best talent and creating blockbuster action games. As a worldwide publishing leader, EA represents the ideal partner to bring our titles to market as global entertainment events" Bioware head Ray Muzyka said, "We are truly excited by John Riccitiello's new vision for EA. This vision is consistent with BioWare's focus on crafting the highest quality story-driven games in the world. It will enable us to further the careers of the passionate, creative and hard working teams at BioWare Edmonton and BioWare Austin"

For those not keeping score, John Riccitiello is the former COO of EA who left in 2004 to form private equity firm Elevation Partners, which (until yesterday) owned Bioware and Pandemic. He rejoined EA in February as the new CEO.

What this means for all parties involved isn't clear yet. The deal is supposed to wrap up in January of 2008, but the timing of this announcement may have something to do with the posting of EA's second quarter results, set for November 1st.

UPDATE: Games Industry has more details on the acquisition. According to them, the total final cost to EA will be in the range of 860 million, which will take EA around 2 years to make back. John Riccitiello, who admitted having a "residual interest" in Elevation Partners, made clear that the acquisition was made through an independent audit committee. Riccitiello did not disclose any personal benefit to the deal, but forms filed by EA to the SEC indicate that the CEO could personally make almost $5 million from the purchase.

For the record, I am one of those people.

Inexplicably, the PS3 version of Stranglehold has been delayed until October 30th, putting it 2 months behind the 360 version and nearly 7 weeks behind the PC version. I haven't seen any indications as to why the game has delayed, although it is likely having something to do with the Blu-Ray edition of Hard Boiled. Anyone out there heard anything?

Just thinking...

Remember when everyone was bringing up the fact that it was trivial to find a PS3 in the wild. Now with the price drop for the 60 GB version and the news that SCEA has run out of PS3's internally, everyone seems to be scrambling to pick one up.

Just bored at work, letting my mind wander....

It seems that Epic Games will not go quietly into the night regarding Silicon Knight's recent lawsuit contending that Epic willfully and illegally withheld vital parts of the Unreal Engine from them, resulting in delays and buggy code for the upcoming SK game, Too Human.

Epic Games VP Mark Rein released a statement today saying that Epic has "done nothing wrong" and that Epic will be counter-suing SK for "misappropriat[ing] Epic's licensed technology" with the development of the Silicon Knights Engine, a move SK's lawsuit claims was forced by Epic when it refused to support efforts to optimize the code for Too Human. Epic went on to say, "Indeed, the plain language of the Silicon Knights' Complaint makes clear that Silicon Knights wants to take Epic's Licensed Technology, pay nothing for it, and use it any way it pleases."

This accusation may have merit. In the Silicon Knights suit, SK states that "Progress on the Silicon Knights’ Engine continues to date and, at this time, the Silicon Knights Engine is completely independent of Epic’s Engine and certainly derives no benefit from the unworkable source code provided by Epic." Later in the same paragraph the suit states, "Moreover, as development of the Silicon Knights Engine continues, the amount of code from Epic’s Engine employed by Silicon Knights continues to decrease. After the release of Silicon Knights’ Too Human, all Epic code will be removed from the Silicon Knights Engine", inferring that there is indeed UE3 code within the developing SK Engine, despite the fact that it "derives no benefit from the unworkable source code." Furthermore, in the Prayer section (basically where SK lays out how they would like the Court to rule), clause M states that "(4) Silicon Knights may alter the Engine without restriction; (5) Silicon Knights is under no obligation to disclose or share any alterations Silicon Knights makes or causes to be made to the Engine with anyone, including Epic". To Mark Rein, this is essentially is an open admission of SK's willingness to use parts of Epic's engine code without having to pay for it.

More information is available at GameDaily.Biz, since they are apparently one of the chosen few who received the initial press contact from Epic.

7:28 AM on 08.07.2007

In preparation for the release of Beyond The Sword, an expansion for the popular Civilization 4 game, Firaxis tapped several prominant and not-so-prominent webcomics artists to create a series of comics based on Civ 4.

In a recent poll on Joystiq, who regularly highlights gamer comics, the two strips offered up by Ctrl-Alt-Del creator Tim Buckley were voted best by a significant margin, followed by Dueling Analog's and PVP.

The most interesting reaction may be from PVP fans, whose hatred of CAD is nearing legendary status.

The comics are posted below, what does the Dtoid community think?

Dueling Analogs
PVP Online
GU Comics
My Extra Life
8-Bit Theatre

Silicon Knights, developer of the Blood Omen series as well as the upcoming Too Human have recently filed suit against Epic, creator of the super-mega-big-damn hit Gears Of War and the Unreal Tournament Engine 3 which powers it. SK claims that not only did Epic withhold enhancements and bug fixes for the licensed version of the UT3 engine from them, but it was done intentionally to give themselves an unfair advantage in the market.

At the crux of SK’s complaints is Epic’s contention that most of the enhancements and bug fixes requested by Silicon Knights were “game-specific” and not “engine-specific,” therefore it wasn’t Epic’s responsibility. Little niggling bits like a functional graphics renderer were therefore Silicon Knights’ problem. Meanwhile work continued on Gears Of War, work funded (according to the suit) by the licensing fees paid to Epic by Silicon Knights and other unnamed licensees.

All of this comes to a head at E3 2006, where Too Human and GOW, both games using ostensibly the same engine, are shown with vastly different reactions. Gears of War wowed audiences, going on to win Best game that year. Too Human, forced by Epic's neglect to run on an incomplete and broken engine, was roundly criticized as slow, buggy, and generally disappointing.

The solution was the creation of the “Silicon Knights Engine” (although company CEO Denis Dyack initially denied its existence) which will presumably be used in Too Human and all future Silicon Knights games. The lawsuit is unclear as to whether the SKE is wholly independent venture or a natural offshoot of the supposedly unusable code provided by Epic. The lawsuit seems to say both, and this distinction could be a major obstacle for Silicon Knights moving forward.

Silicon Knights seeks either a complete dissolution of their contract or significant modification, allowing SK to use and modify the UT3 engine as they see fit, with no further obligation to Epic. In addition, Silicon Knights seeks a total refund of all licensing fees paid to Epic in addition to all profits made from Gears Of War to date. Gears Of War has sold over 4 million copies since its release in November of 2006, making the potential payoff substantial for the struggling developer.

Dyack was lambasted for his criticism of the video game media and its supposed unfair coverage of Too Human at E3 2006. Perhaps this lawsuit gives more reasons behind his frustration. I recommend reading the actual lawsuit papers provided here in pdf form. It's longish (54 pages) but surprisingly free of a lot of legalese and gives a pretty good insight into the various back-room negotiations involved in the video game business as well some fairly technical details written for the layman.