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Will EA Go After The Housers?

EA dropped its bid for Take-Two yesterday, ending (for now) a 7-month battle for the makers of Grand Theft Auto IV that got them absolutely nowhere. And while EA may certainly come back for another round later this year or early next year (at deflated prices), there's another possible next move for the video game giant. Instead of buying the company, best known for its Grand Theft Auto series, they could just buy Sam and Dan Houser, the guys who make Grand Theft Auto.

Why does this make sense?

- The Houser brothers would be expensive -- in 2005, they extracted $84 million from their employers, and they're only going to be more expensive this time around -- but they'll cost a whole lot less than $2 billion.

- They may be available soon: Their contract with Take-Two expires in February 2009.

Why wouldn't this make sense?

- EA wouldn't own Grand Theft Auto or any of Rockstar's (the Housers' studio within Take-Two) other IP. Take-Two would still hold the rights to those games. And while some of Rockstar's non-GTA titles have done ok, nothing has come close to the success of GTA.

- EA didn't want Take-Two solely for GTA: It was also interested in its 2K Sports sports label. Adding 2K would immediately and significantly increase EA's market share in sports like basketball, and the company wouldn't have to sign expensive exclusive deals (like they did with the NFL for the Madden games). And crucially, EA has already gotten the go-ahead from the anti-trust regulators to make the deal happen.

- Take-Two will back up a truck to keep the Housers staying put.

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