Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment has announced plans to join EA, one of the world’s largest and most influential videogame publishers. The acquisition of Respawn, which will cost EA up to $455 million, won’t impact the studio’s recently announced VR title, says Oculus.
It was announced last month at Oculus Connect that Respawn Entertainment is developing an unnamed Rift exclusive VR title set for 2019. At the time, Oculus’ Head of Content, Jason Rubin, said that he constantly gets asked when the world’s leading developers will begin creating VR games. He remains steadfast that they will come, and asked for patience, but also said that he was ready to “made a down payment on that promise today.” That was the lead up to the reveal that Oculus Studios would be publishing a Rift exclusive title developed by Respawn. Little has been revealed about the game, including a name, however, the 2019 release date suggests a full VR title with a lengthy, AAA development period. The studio has confirmed that the forthcoming Rift title is not a Titanfall or Star Wars game.
This week EA announced that it will acquire Respawn, paying $151 million in cash, up to $164 million in stock for employees, and up to $140 million in bonuses based on the success of forthcoming titles. Respawn claims the move was to ensure the studio could achieve its long-term goals, not because it was in financial trouble.
For those looking forward to Respawn’s first major step into VR, the studio notes that there will be no layoffs or major organizational changes, and that “titles currently in development will continue uninterrupted.” Oculus concurs, telling Road to VR that the acquisition isn’t expect to have any impact on the project.
“[…] we are extremely excited to be working with not only one of the greatest devs in the industry, but also to be working with one of the greatest publishers on the planet,” Rubin said. “Good times, and good for VR.”
Depending upon the success of Respawn’s VR project, the acquisition could potentially act as a trojan horse for getting EA more involved with VR. The massive publisher hasn’t delved deeply into the young tech—there’s not VR game to date that’s reeled in enough revenue to be more than a drop in the bucket for EA’s bottom line—but they aren’t ignoring it entirely.
EA’s Star Wars Battlefront (2015) launched with a special VR mission exclusively for PlayStation VR. Though it was a single level, it was well received and, tellingly, built on the company’s own Frostbite engine—meaning the publisher has invested time into adapting their core engine for VR rendering. Unfortunately Battlefront II won’t have any VR content.
EA will likely have a major say in what the studio does next, but with the Rift-exclusive VR project already signed between Oculus and Respawn, the outcome could be a major factor in whether the publisher decides to take on more VR projects or scrap such initiatives until VR has further matured.