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2008 In Review: July-Sept: Major Deals, Xbox Steals, EA Yields

2008 In Review: July-Sept: Major Deals, Xbox Steals, EA Yields Exclusive

January 2, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

As 2009 starts out, Gamasutra has been reflecting on the year's major stories, one quarter at a time.

Into the new year, we'll be rounding up a news summary aimed at providing a solid look back on 2008's memorable events.

Following our round-up of January to March and April to June, we look at July through September 2008.

This packed quarter that saw a couple of large announcements from a very sparse E3, one successful merger (and one major failed one), some significant publishing deals, and the high-profile disbarment of controversial attorney Jack Thompson.

July 2008

Electronic Arts' partnership with Hasbro produced their own official Scrabble game, which would prove to have legal implications for popular Facebook Scrabble clone Scrabulous. In other Web issues, Google announced it was throwing its hat into the online worlds ring with Lively, an effort that would prove short-lived.

Those weren't the only eyes shifting Web-ward, as a matter of fact; The Witcher creator CD-Projekt launched its Good Old Games online portal for DRM-free classics.

2008's muted E3 Business Summit got a tepid reception, and the scaled-down show had few major announcements of note were made there, but there were a couple of kickers. Electronic Arts revealed it was partnering with id Software to publish the Doom and Quake creator's next game, Rage, via its EA Partners label. John Carmack talked about overcoming "outdated prejudices" to sign the deal with EA.

Even more spectacularly, Square Enix apparently also overcame its old allegiances with the biggest surprise to come out of E3: Final Fantasy XIII would release on Xbox 360 in the U.S.

August 2008

Following a summer plagued by questions about the Entertainment Software Association's usefulness amid publisher exits and a widely-criticized E3, the ESA went to bat against the state of California regarding its unconstitutional anti-game law. The ESA collected some $282,794 in attorneys fees from the state once the law was overturned.

Problems continued for Midway, as its losses continued to mount. Several high-ranking employees, including Chicago studio head Mike Bilder and marketing VP Mona Hamilton, resigned from the company.

Elsewhere, GameTap parent Turner revealed its wish to pull out of the subscription gaming space, as the company said it was seeking a buyer for its GameTap digital distribution service.

Struggles in the Austin development scene also became evident with layoffs at NCsoft's offices there and significant" staff reductions at Midway Austin.

EA Partners continued its high-profile streak with the announcement of a Grasshopper Manufacture publishing relationship for a horror title produced by Resident Evil's Shinji Mikami -- alongside a publishing deal with Epic for a new multiplatform title by Painkiller devs People Can Fly.

As for its ongoing Take-Two acquisition bid, EA finally let the long-standing, oft-renewed offer lapse. This move was in order to talk behind closed doors with Take-Two and hash things out, as the FTC gave the increasingly unlikely merger the thumbs-up.

Microsoft began to gain some much-needed traction in Japan with the release of Tales of Vesperia, which sold out console stock across the nation. The company would soon follow up in the beginning of September with a price cut for Japan -- a prelude to U.S. reductions.

September 2008

Just a few days after the Japanese price reductions, Microsoft applied similar reductions across all of its SKUs in North America, which meant its family-oriented Arcade SKU was now less expensive than the Wii.

The move would prove to be a major boon to the company, as the economic downturn spread potential shadows ahead of the key holiday shopping season.

Tecmo settled the overtime lawsuit brought by some of its employees earlier in the year, and revealed itself to be in merger talks with Koei -- snubbing a bid from Square Enix, in favor of joining with a company closer to its own size and philosophy.

This month also saw the news that, after nearly a year's worth of attempts, there would be no EA-Take-Two merger after all. After examining Take-Two's due diligence and failing to negotiate for an agreeable per-share price, EA at last surrendered on a quiet Sunday evening just before the Austin Game Developers Conference kicked off.

During the event itself, three principal devs on the Metroid Prime series revealed they had formed a new studio, Armature, and scored a publishing deal with EA.

Toward the end of the month, longtime anti-game attorney Jack Thompson, a wildly popular target for controversy, was permanently disbarred by the Florida courts largely as penalty for his barrage of illustrated correspondence to the court and his general conduct.

[Stay tuned to Gamasutra for the year-ending game business news summary, spanning October to December.]

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