Electronic Arts has announced that they are in the process of acquiring Respawn Entertainment in exchange for $315 million in cash and stock, with a bonus of $140 million if Respawn meets certain conditions. To be more specific, Respawn agreed to a buyout of $151 million in cash, $164 million in long-term stock grants, and the incentive targets that could bring in an additional $140 million. That's almost half a billion dollars for an independent studio helmed by one of the creators of Call of Duty.
This deal means that Titanfall would join the roster of EA tentpoles alongside the likes of Battlefield and the burgeoning Battlefront franchise. Also, since EA has been granted the rights to develop Star Wars titles by Disney, EA revealed that Respawn would be working on an original game set within the Star Wars universe - but beyond that, no details have been revealed as to what that game might contain.
While the acquisition of Respawn might come as a bit of a shock to some, the deal merely solidifies the working relationship EA and Respawn had for the past several years. Talking with VentureBeat, Respawn cofounder and CEO Vince Zampella said, "[Respawn and EA] have worked together a long time from the inception of the studio. [An acquisition] has come up from time to time. The question was, where we are in the industry, how do we take the next step in making bigger, better games. We see the need for bigger resources to make bigger games.”
In an effort to confirm Zampella's statement and allay fears about Respawn's future given the recent closure of EA's Visceral Games, EA executive vice president Patrick Soderlund offered this statement, "We want to have the best games. We have a good relationship. The creative freedom is still here: DICE, BioWare, our studios have creative freedom and creative integrity. That’s what gets those studios to make great games.”
There has been some speculation that EA has been angled toward this studio purchase for quite some time. Titanfall sold relatively well, but Titanfall 2 underperformed despite receiving critical acclaim. One of the deciding factors in sales that many have pointed to was that EA, Titanfall 2's publisher, chose to release Titanfall 2 one week after the release of their other, heavily marketed title, Battlefield 1. That could certainly have put Respawn in a tough place, making it easier to bring the company into the fold.
That tactic wouldn't be out of the question. Obtaining the creative powers of a studio led by devs who helped to create the most successful FPS shooter franchise of all time was a big win for Electronic Arts. Respawn was founded by Jason West and Vince Zampella after the duo were fired from Activision. Activision alleged that the two were planning to leave the company to create a new studio at EA. The ensuing lawsuit actually brought Activision and EA into a legal clash that resulted in a settlement for all parties in 2012. EA has since published all of Respawn's titles, with the exception of a Titanfall mobile game published by Nexon.
Despite the bumps that come along with a studio changing hands and leadership, Respawn continues to work on a variety of projects. They are working on the next entry in the Titanfall series, their Star Wars title, and an untitled Oculus Rift VR game. Zampella encouraged Respawn fans not to worry too much about this shake up, saying, “For fans, my message is we are still Respawn and we are going to make things better. It doesn’t change the future of Titanfall. Only positives come from it, like more resources.”
The deal should be finalized before the end of the year.