Analyst: Activision purchase not so Bizarre

Goldman Sachs' Mark Wienkes believes publisher's acquisition of Project Gotham Racing developer signals green lights for online revenue.

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Up until this morning, Activision, one of the world's largest game publishers, was oddly lacking in representation for the lucrative racing genre, with this decade's offerings essentially limited to MTX Mototrax and Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions. However, that noticeable hole was plugged today, as the Santa Monica-based publishing giant announced the acquisition of UK-based independent developer Bizarre Creations, maker of the widely acclaimed Project Gotham Racing series.

Weighing in on the news, Goldman Sachs analyst Mark Wienkes told investors the buyout was good news for Activision. According to Wienkes, "this acquisition makes sense strategically as it allows Activision to enter the $1.4 billion racing genre via a proven developer with a history of producing top titles." As noted by Activision this morning, the Project Gotham Racing series has moved more than 4.5 million units in North America and Europe, not including PGR4, which ships out next week.

The Goldman Sachs analyst also noted that the move is in line with Activision's professed interest in acquiring top-quality studios. "This acquisition is consistent with Activision's stated strategy...in acquiring studios with a proven franchise history and average critical reviewer ratings exceeding 85/100," said Wienkes. The Project Gotham Racing series' cumulative Metacritic average currently sits at 88.

Wienkes also believes that Bizarre's expertise in the racing circuit will help Activision capitalize on the growing online marketplace presented by the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii. "We believe racing titles are ideal to help expand Activision's exposure to ancillary revenue streams presented with online connectivity...Activision is well-positioned to prosper as online connectivity of the new consoles accelerates growth in new revenue opportunities such as in-game advertising, digital distribution, and micro-transactions."

While Bizarre is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision, no changes were made to projects currently in development. Bizarre will still be partnering with Sega on The Club, Sierra Entertainment on Geometry Wars: Galaxies, and Microsoft Games Studio for Project Gotham Racing 4. Bizarre plans to begin work soon on two original properties for Activision--an original racer and a "character game"--the first of which is currently scheduled to appear in 2009.

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