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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 July, 2004, 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
Games giant EA spreads its wings
Screenshot of Grand Theft Auto
The Grand Theft Auto games were made using RenderWare
Video games giant Electronic Arts has snapped up the UK games developer Criterion Software.

It gives EA control over a technology called RenderWare, which is widely used by its competitors to help make games.

But it has said that it plans to continue to license the RenderWare tools to other developers.

The purchase comes at a time when the games industry is gearing up for the expensive task of making games for the next generation of consoles.

Key tools

Criterion is based in Guildford in the UK and employs more than 200 people across the world.

It is behind the Burnout series of games and it is working on a new first-person shooter known as Black.

Perhaps more importantly, it is also responsible for the RenderWare game development tools.

Screenshot from Burnout 3
The next installment in the Burnout series is due soon
The software helps developers build graphics and audio for games and has been used by companies such as Activision, Atari, Sony Computer Entertainment and Ubisoft.

According to Criterion, more than 500 current generation RenderWare games are in development or have been published worldwide, while one in four console titles in pre-production or development uses the technology.

Among the games that have used RenderWare are Grand Theft Auto III, Call of Duty and Pro Evolution Soccer.

The deal to buy Criterion from current owners Canon is expected to be completed in the next month or so.

"Criterion offers us studio talent and a proven management team, globally recognised intellectual property and technology infrastructure that will accelerate our readiness on the next generation of consoles," said EA chief executive Larry Probst.

Rising costs

EA plans to incorporate the RenderWare technology with its own research and development, particularly when it comes to games for the next generation of consoles.

Ironically the deal also means that EA's rivals will be forced to rely on a competitor's technology for some of their games development.

But EA has said that it plans to continue to allow others to use RenderWare to make their games.

Game makers are concerned about rising costs, with top titles costing millions to produce.

Common sets of tools like RenderWare are becoming increasingly important as a way of keeping costs down.

Microsoft is also pushing its own set of tools to allow developers to write a game once that will then run on both the PC and Xbox.

The software, dubbed XNA, will help companies keep a cap on the cost of developing games for ever bigger pools of hardware.

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