Sega conquers The Creative Assembly

Console-centric Japanese publisher scoops up Rome: Total War developer The Creative Assembly; plans next-gen development.


At last year's E3, Sega stunned many by announcing it would copublish the massively multiplayer role-playing game the Matrix Online. As surprising as that was, today's news from the publisher positively floored the PC gaming world. This morning, the newly formed Sega Sammy Group filed papers sealing its acquisition of UK-based developer The Creative Assembly. The news arrived at the same time the two companies made public an agreement to develop and publish the new action game Spartan: Total Warrior.

While Sega's minimalist press release only had the bare-bones financial transaction information required by British law, its significance was large for PC gamers. The buyout means that the traditionally console-centric Sega is now owner of the creator of the Total War series, including GameSpot Game of the Year 2004 nominee Rome: Total War. Indeed, the revelation that Spartan: Total Warrior would be a current-generation console game shows that the Creative Assembly's energies are already being redirected away from the PC market.

So what was the reason behind the purchase? The filing laid bare Sega Sammy's plans for Creative Assembly. "By acquiring the shares of The Creative Assembly Ltd., Sega Sammy Group will be able to obtain competitive titles and a strong brand in the North American and European markets, in addition to expand product lines and increase sales volumes dramatically," it read. "Furthermore, we believe that we will be able to make good use of the development engines produced by The Creative Assembly Ltd. to expand future titles, as well as developing new ventures for next-generation platforms with the team."

The filing also contained portends of a possible developer acquisition spree by Sega Sammy. "The markets of the consumer business, which Sega Sammy Group regards as one of its core businesses, have expanded rapidly in North America and Europe, while the Japanese market has seen sluggish growth," it read. "Hence, for our business development in the future, the North American and European markets have been growing in importance. Under these circumstances, Sega Sammy Group is promoting the concentration of its management resources on growth areas in its consumer business, relocation of its development resources for better productivity and unification of its development and marketing strategies."

The news is especially shocking given the Creative Assembly's long-standing relationship with Activision. The Los Angeles-based company had published all the Total War games since 2002, including Medieval: Total War, its Viking Invasion expansion, and Rome: Total War. Given Activision's habit of acquiring the developers of its more successful games (like Infinity Ward), it was widely assumed that it would purchase The Creative Assembly if anyone did. Representatives for Activision had not returned requests for comment as of press time.

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