In a conference call to further detail plans to purchase Take-Two Interactive, EA CEO John Riccitiello offered some insight about his plans for the combined company, if the deal went through.
First of note for gamers is that Riccitiello said "I wouldn't change a line of code in 'BioShock' nor would I in 'GTA' or 'Max Payne'... what we would do is sell more of it." He said EA's distribution network could get those games in places Take-Two doesn't reach.
He also said the purchase was enticing for EA because his current company is "underrepresented in M-rated content." Getting the creators of "GTA," he noted, would suddenly give EA the top M-rated content in the world.
Riccitiello also name-checked Sid Meier of Firaxis and Greg Thomas of 2K Sports studio Visual Concepts and as valued members of Take-Two. Regarding the potential combination of EA and Take-Two's sports business, Riccitiello said that he thought highly of Thomas but that "in terms of the sports business, from any sort of organizational perspective, we think it is way too early to comment." He also shot down the idea that the purchase would leave EA without competition in sports, naming "Wii Sports" and "Hot Shots Golf" among the company's apparent rivals.
The lion's share of Riccitiello's praise during the call was for the top men at Rockstar Games, whose distinct publishing labels were cited as an inspiration for EA's current structural division. Financial analysts on the call tried to get Riccitiello to address their feelings that it would be expensive to bring Rockstar Games' management into the EA fold, but the EA CEO said the conference call wasn't the proper forum to discuss how EA could pull that off.
Riccitiello did reveal that EA's interest in Take-Two goes back quite a bit. He said that his first inquiry into Take-Two began last summer and noted that he put the brakes on an attempt by EA to buy Take-Two when he took his CEO spot at EA last April. "At the 11th hour I recommend the board not to pursue it," he said. He felt his own company needed to shift its own structure into its current four-division set-up before taking on Take-Two.
Riccitiello and CFO Warren Jenson also stated on the call that they were surprised at Take-Two's rejection of EA's offer. "It is our objective to make this a friendly deal," Jenson said. They said they expected someone to buy Take-Two, whether it's EA or not.
(On a side note, tomorrow will mark one year since Riccitiello was announced as the next CEO of EA, though he didn't assume the position until April. The executive has written quite a first year for himself at the publishing giant. )