Buena Vista Games to acquire Climax Racing

Disney-owned publisher picks up developer of ATV Offroad Fury, Xbox and PC MotoGP titles.

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Disney-owned Buena Vista Games is continuing to establish itself as a player in the gaming world. Aside from games based on its parent-company's myriad golden-goose licenses like The Little Mermaid and Pirates of the Caribbean, the publisher is putting out a number of games aimed at more traditional gamers, like the next-gen Turok or Q Entertainment's lineup of Lumines Plus, Lumines II, Meteos: Disney Edition, and Every Extend Extra. Buena Vista Games said it expects the deal to close in early October.

Now it appears that Buena Vista Games is moving further into the traditional game space, as it has announced the impending acquisition of Brighton, England-based Climax Racing. The studio is best known as the developer of THQ's MotoGP games and Sony's ATV Offroad Fury series.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Pacific Crest Securities analyst Evan Wilson estimated it to be roughly in the range of $20 million to $50 million.

"This move should be of little surprise to investors as [Disney] has made it clear that they have serious intentions in games for some time," Wilson said in a note to investors. "[Disney] mentions games as one of its primary areas of investment in nearly every presentation, and future acquisitions are likely."

Lazard Capital Markets analyst Colin Sebastian also weighed in on the impact the move would have on THQ with a note to investors. Believing that MotoGP is not a core franchise for the publisher, Sebastian said it caters to a niche audience and has "limited blockbuster potential."

As for future installments of MotoGP, Sebastian said that THQ still has the license to the series and that he expects Climax to finish up work on the unannounced MotoGP 07. After that, Sebastian said THQ will hand the franchise to another studio or possibly discontinue it entirely.

Sony has not returned a request for comment on how this acquisition would affect the ATV Offroad Fury series. ATV Offroad Fury 4 for the PlayStation 2 and ATV Offroad Fury Pro for the PlayStation Portable are both expected to launch next month.

As of press time, Disney stock was essentially flat, while THQ shares were trading down $1.07, a little over 3 percent, to $29.80.

[UPDATE] The fate of the MotoGP series seems to be up in the air, as a THQ spokesperson told GameSpot that the publisher is currently evaluating the brand to decide if it's worth pursuing in 2008 and beyond.

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