The end of Britsoft

MCV UK laments the end of Britsoft:

With Eidos for sale, Codemasters for sale, Criterion bought and Argonaut in financial crisis, it’s not just the media frenzy surrounding Manhunt that should be giving the market pause for thought this week.

From a content creation and ownership perspective, the UK industry is faced with the harsh realities of global consolidation. Indeed, a collection of its biggest brand names could fall into foreign ownership in just a matter of weeks.

But how does this look from a non-British perspective?

The Germans may feel left out. I can’t think of a German developer able to deliver worldwide AAA titles who hasn’t already been acquired. Consolidation within Germany itself was set back by the collapse of Phenomedia and the problems of JoWooD, although they seem to have picked themselves up again. So while the world is consolidating for the next-gen future, the Germans are being left behind.

The French seem to be doing OK, although from what I hear it’s not easy being a developer there. The only halfway decent and dependable employer seems to be Ubisoft: a company I admire, but which doesn’t exactly have an unblemished record regarding the treatment of both internal and external developers. Many of the big French companies of yore are bust, have been acquired, or are mere shadows of their former selves.

The wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding the goings-on in the UK remind me of one of my pet theories. The British (and the French) still have some nostalgia for the time when they were major world-spanning empires, and subsequently they sometimes have trouble facing the reality of not being quite that important anymore. Being Dutch, I can lean back and smile, because our Golden Age was in the 17th century, and now long past. I’ve gotten used to being from a small country. Instead of getting upset when we no longer fulfill the expectations of empire, I can take pride if we occasionally punch above our weight.

The same goes for the Dutch games industry. Also, having lived in several different countries, I just can not get excited about one particular country’s games industry.

But anyway, enough pop socio-historical claptrap. More news from the British front:

Whilst most acquisition talk has surrounded EA’s $48m swoop for Criterion and coffee-spitter of a cash offer for Eidos, MCV understands that French giant Ubisoft has reached an advanced stage in negotiations with another of the UK’s prized games assets in Codemasters.

To quote Alan Moore’s excellent Bojeffries Saga: “They eat our women, sleep with our food.” But it makes a lot more sense than buying Eidos. Ubisoft has a decent publishing operation, especially in Europe. But they have shown that they can make an enormous amount of developers work. So why not buy some more? I think this rumor will turn out to be true.

Comments 4

  1. Jurie Horneman wrote:

    I insult half of Europe and not even one comment?

    Posted 10 Aug 2004 at 14:09
  2. Aubrey wrote:

    Well hey, I’m one of you dutchies now, so what do I care? :)

    It’s a strange time to be in, I guess. I always felt like Brits thrived when they were able to be on the cutting edge of things… to quote, er, someone “The Americans make things big, the Japanese make things small, but the English, they make the things in the first place”. I’m not trying to suggest that england represents the only innovators, but they did manage to build a pretty good name for themselves in that respect, didn’t they?

    Unfortunately the time for making new things seems to be over. Innovation is a skill subsumed into corporate strategy in the same way that “corporate responsibility” is often nothing more than an elaborate PR scam. I can see the shareholder meetings now: “A sizable portion of the market is getting bored with these genre games”, and then some bright spark pipes up “Let’s not do anything innovative, but let’s make people THINK we are! I call it ‘Minnovation’!”

    Ahaa! Angry ranting… I need to shut my face. I guess that, through this method of creating fairly insulting racial stereotypes, I’m trying to explain why the games industry is no longer any easy place to live for the Brits, as they’re brainwashed into thinking, all their lives, that to live a worth-while life, you HAVE to be ground breaking, and anything less is THE DEVIL!

    I’m not ridiculing that outlook. I subscribe to it, ferchrissakes. But it’s easy to recognize that it’s not much of a business strategy. At the end of the day, though, the bigger companies are only going to own the wealth – they’re not going to own people’s willingness to innovate.

    God damn, just ignore everything I say from now on.

    Posted 11 Aug 2004 at 19:17
  3. tobe wrote:

    I want all bitmap brothers games for my GBA, the rest can go to hell. Especially Lara & the rest of the troupe!

    Nobody expected the french inquisition, nobody!

    Posted 12 Aug 2004 at 0:03
  4. codemonky_uk wrote:

    I agree with Aubrey. The pattern fits with other creative industrys as well, like music, or film.

    Posted 12 Aug 2004 at 10:49