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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 16:21 GMT
Rockstar is EA 'primary interest'
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

Grand Theft Auto IV is released at the end of April

Rockstar and its franchise Grand Theft Auto is the "primary interest" of EA's attempted purchase of Take Two games, said chief executive John Riccitiello.

Mr Riccitiello said: "I believe the company is fully justified in calling themselves Rockstar because that's what they are in this industry."

Take Two turned down EA's first approach and so the games giant is now targeting shareholders directly.

Take Two boss Strauss Zelnick said the EA offer undervalued the firm.

Mr Zelnick has said EA should wait until after the release of Grand Theft Auto IV on 29 April. Analysts predict it will be the biggest release of the year, with sales upwards of 10 million copies.

Mr Riccitiello told BBC News: "If we don't conclude this transaction, if we walk because of whatever level of inability to get this done, the scary thing is what the stock trades at after we leave, not after 29 April."

He said Take Two had four of the best studios in the industry: Rockstar, makers of Grand Theft Auto; Irrational, makers of Bioshock; Firaxis, home to Sid Meir and Civilization and Visual Concepts, makers of sport titles.

"What we are attracted to is what we value in our own studios: great developers and great intellectual property."

Scene from Grand Theft Auto IV
Pre-orders of Grand Theft Auto IV have been better-than-expected

Mr Riccitiello said he had great respect for the producers behind Grand Theft Auto, Sam and Dan Houser and Leslie Benzies.

"The big headline here is that our primary interest is in Rockstar and the intellectual properties around Rockstar."

He said the bid was not an attempt to remove a competitor in the field of sport titles.

"Sports games are secondary consideration here," he said.

He said he had no fear that the value EA placed on Take Two could be damaged if the trio of Rockstar creators decided not to pursue further Grand Theft Auto titles after the latest release.

He said: "There is no doubt that EA is several times larger than Take Two - everyday somebody walks in and somebody walks out.

What we have got right now is a corporate issue that has nothing to do with the people who build these games
John Riccitello, EA

"If the wrong guy walks out, we have an issue to deal with. But we don't stop making games."

He added: "In case of Rockstar I would point out that the leaders are young, vibrant, they're talented and committed.

"And what we have got right now is a corporate issue that has nothing to do with the people who build these games."

He said concerns that EA's buyout would stifle innovation were unfounded and pointed to franchises and games that had improved after the firm had bought the original development talent.

"We worked collectively with Will Wright to create The Sims. When we bought Maxis, Sim City was selling 7 to 800,000 copies.

"The Sims is a level of performance to Sim City that the Empire State Building is to a very nice house."

He said games like Battlefield, Burnout, Need for Speed and Madden were franchises which were stronger following EA's purchase of the original development firms.

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