Monday, May 12, 2008

ERTS Closes Up: Sam Houser Quote Edition


EA's stock closed up USD $1.61 today, reaching into territory it has not touched since January of this year. It could be a run up in anticipation of the financial call, or could it be this quote from today's Wall Street Journal article:
If EA ends up with Take-Two, Mr. Houser says it's unlikely that he would go so far as to seek EA's approval for game content. Still, he calls Mr. Riccitiello "the real deal" and sees some appeal in an EA alliance, which he says would make Rockstar a "much smaller fish in much bigger pond."

If it is the latter, I may be forced retract my earlier post about John Riccitiello's identification of as much value in the name on the door as the individuals on the other side. Could this giant blow job of a story be the result of an intimate dinner over dusty million year old bottles of wine in a dark, secluded restaurant? I suppose the Wall Street Journal is more efficient than a post on Perez Hilton. As much as this seems to be a resounding endorsement from the otherwise silent, perpetually media avoiding Sam Houser - try to find a recent picture on line - judging from what is not in the article, I don't think it came from a new meeting of the minds. I think it is more of John's invitation to the intimate dinner than the result. While the realization of Sam's significance is a step forward, the approach, is somewhat hamhanded, and more appropriately executed by a twelve year old girl who has her friend pass a note on to the object of her schoolgirl crush.

The article quotes John's recollection of a meeting he had with Sam while at Elevation:
Mr. Houser and Bono riffed on pop-culture topics, from "who the second drummer was on bands from 25 years ago to who the second camera was on 'Godfather,' " Mr. Riccitiello recalls. "Spend two hours with [Sam] and come away and tell me you don't think he's as smart as Steven Spielberg or Bono."

It is great John identified his genius in the conversation. My realization came about somewhat differently, it was, oh yeah. . . WHEN HE BECAME THE GUY WHO PULLED HIS MATES TOGETHER AND CREATED THE FUCKING BEST SELLING GAME FRANCHISE OF ALL TIME. Holding his end of a conversation with Bono is nice, and probably not something I can do, but is it really as significant as being a driving force behind the highest grossing entertainment franchise in history?

The meeting would be significant because it is no secret the lion's share of Take Two's value lies in GTA. The value in GTA exists in Sam, Dan, Les, and the team who built it. If John acknowledges their value and acquires the company, they may leave and he will look more than bad. However, if John identifies the value in the studio, the studio can't leave. If John could say he and Sam are in agreement about the future of the franchise - as Bobby Kotick did with Mike Morheim when they announced the Actard deal - concerns over Sam et al's departure would evaporate, and the likelihood of a successful tender would increase. A careful reading of the article shows no conversation between the parties. Just a non-committal "eh" from Sam and a brilliant statement of the obvious from John.

It is not time to recant yet.




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