With the latest rise of unionization in the gaming industry, it may be easy to overlook the first rulers of studio procurement: Electronic Arts. In an unexpected twist, another report from Dylan Byers of the free distribution, Puck, claims that EA, which has a market cap of $36 billion, has been hunting for a larger organization to buy it, and was almost bought by NBCUniversal.
According to the story, Brian Roberts, CEO of NBCUniversal parent company Comcast, approached EA CEO Andrew Wilson with a proposal to merge EA with NBCUniversal, leaving Wilson in charge of the merged entity. Negotiations lasted for a short time before breaking down over cost and the final structure of the blended element.
The story goes on to say that EA has also looked at the possibility of partnering with Disney, Apple, and Amazon, with the Disney talks focusing on EA’s gaming studios and potential collaboration with ESPN, which I had no idea was a Disney subsidiary since around 1996. With a videogame exclusive agreement between the companies expiring one year from now, EA has also sold high-profile variants of the Disney-owned Star Wars franchise.
EA has a reputation for acquiring popular developers and then closing their doors, with PC gaming companies like Origin Systems, the creators of the Ultima series, and Westwood Studios, the creators of the original Dune RTS games, both closing their doors under EA’s ownership. Since being acquired by the organization, BioWare, the creators of hit RPGs like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, has had a concerningly tough 10 years.
It’s unclear how the potential consolidations would affect developers inside the EA umbrella, and the focus of the conversations appears to be mostly on the company’s profitable gaming studios. The Madden engine continues to create money, but there is a snag in heaven: EA recently lost its rights to FIFA marking its flagship soccer franchise.