Mice of the Old Republic: If Disney Purchased EA

The bulk of our Stories From The Outer Rim talk from Episode 14 was about the possibility of EA being purchased by a larger group in 2010, with Star Wars The Old Republic acting as a top selling point. While we touched on a lot of details around this topic, we felt it best to put together a definitive post from the fan’s perspective.

disney characters tatooine

Are We Crazy?
The cornerstone of the discussion behind EA’s purchase stemmed from the Christmas wrap-up and prediction episode of the 4 Guys 1 Up Podcast. John Davison’s first prediction was that one of the major four game publishers would be purchased by a larger media conglomerate sometime within the next year. His best guess? EA, primarily due to a number of its properties that dovetail with a large media company, especially a group like Disney. What we neglected to mention on the show was that this theory actually has some wings.

Martin Peers of The Wall Street Journal (coverage from Kotaku) actually brought forth the idea that Disney should purchase EA back in 2008. At the time, the company had taken a huge dive in its market value, with its stock dropping about $45 dollars per share from the previous Christmas season. The WSJ article is still true today, as its stock has failed to make any real recovery. Between the ability to tie in properties and the vastly lower purchase price, Disney could stand to make a huge profit by providing EA with the financial stability it needs to bounce back.

Blending the Lines
Even if we consider the power of companies like Comcast or National Amusements (they own CBS, Paramount Pictures, and more), Disney is really the ultimate example of a company looking to pick up EA, and the pieces start to fall in place very quickly. First and foremost is the natural combination of ESPN and the Madden, Tiger Woods, and FIFA franchises. Mickey Mouse cannot go wrong with the four most recognizable sports brands under a single roof. Also, Disney could easily expand its NASCAR influenced Richard Petty Driving Experience to include the export tuner demographic that Need For Speed markets (police “chases”, time trials, etc.)

The biggest opportunity that both companies have is to reinvigorate the theme park market by integrating a video game experience into rides and attractions. While Disney has started to venture into this area already, by bringing in development powerhouses like Maxis and Mythic they stand to grow that area by leaps and bounds.

Speaking Of..
At this point we’ve covered everything that doesn’t apply to our favorite development team. When speaking strictly in terms of dollars and cents, both Warhammer Online and The Old Republic provide constant revenue streams in a market that a company like Disney has failed to tap. Sure, Disney Interactive has managed to grab some money from parents buying the most recent Lilo and Stitch or Hannah Montana title, but they’ve failed to reach out to the hardcore gamers of the world in a meaningful way.

With SWTOR set to be the only contender to ActiBlizzard, Disney would be blind to see that EA is finally on the verge of making their financial comeback. The Spring 2011 release date puts the game in a perfect storm of post-Cataclysm boredom and the pre-summer release lull. What better way to start the new fiscal year with a boom than to prey on the thousands of disenfranchised Warcraft players enticed by all the opportunities that The Old Republic provides, not only in new gameplay experiences and mechanics, but in a Star Wars setting that we all know and love.

Meddling Hands Beware…
Gamers have a long history of despising the “buyout”. There are countless stories of developers being gobbled up and dismantled by publishers (EA not excluded). So what makes our situation different?

If Disney were to approach EA with a purchase deal, we can be rest assured that folks like John Riccitiello (EA’s CEO) and Ray Muzyka (CEO at BioWare Corp and Senior Vice President and Group General Manager of the RPG/MMO Group) would be our biggest advocates. With both companies looking to increase their market and overall revenue, they would be foolish to meddle in the everyday details that directly affect how and what we play. There is no benefit in stirring up the employment stew, removing the people who have managed to create so much positive buzz and excitement about a property that is still over a year away. The community backlash would reach epic proportions.

Of course we do write this with some trepidation in light of the recently announced lawsuit involving Activision and two of its recently-fired heads of Infinity Ward. But thankfully (for SWTOR fans) that situation is more about the rights to a franchise than anything else. With LucasArts involved, and Disney’s previous experience with Lucas properties, the chances of something like that happening to Bioware are slim to none.

Are We Just Talking To Talk?
It’s easy to get bogged down in the details about this property or that stock value. It’s even easier to wonder if this even effects what we as gamers care about the most: the characters, the story, the mechanics, the people. But we feel that it is important to see the whole picture beyond the virtual world we so very much want to be a part of. The educated gamer who cares about the entire process is the better gamer, and we want to do our best to spark meaningful discussion not only about the latest Trooper animation (which was sick, right?), but the games industry as a whole and what it really takes to push out an amazing title like The Old Republic.

We want to know what you think! Sound off in the comments…