After all the legal wrangling, the back-stabbing, the press conferences and the hype, it looks like the battle is over and the HP-Compaq merger has been completed. The families of the founders were against the merger from the start, citing the appointment of CEO Carly Fiorina as a disastrous mistake and that such a merger would doom the company to years of debt and a represent an unacceptable departure from the core values that HP had stood for over the decades.
Of course, Ms. Fiorina maintained all along that the old HP Way was holding HP back from becoming a modern powerhouse. That the family was lamenting the past and not keeping pace with the blistering IT marketplace. That HP must shed its traditions and face the realities of a new business world where the strong and the bold survive and prosper. They killed off the calculator division, started breaking the company off into pieces and prepared HP to become a lean, mean takeover machine. She worked hard to convince institutional investors to toe the line, promising a huge return on their investment should they play ball (at least according to court documents) and indicating that a failure to merge would seriously hurt HP's potential for large leaps in profits.
The end result was a slam-dunk for Fiorina. The founding families were rebuked, as Compaq voted overwhelmingly for the merger and HP narrowly approved it. The court sided with Fiorina against the opposition and Fiorina was able to kick the dissident family member heading the opposition flat off the board. Like her or not, she played the power struggle to the hilt, and she now stands supreme.
As an outsider, I find this to be an incredibly interesting insight into the types of power struggles that usually go on behind the scenes in our industry. We know that Ion Storm had its shake-ups, as did Digital Anvil. We hear about problems in gaming companies all the time, and read about mega-mergers as one company gobbles up others teetering on the brink of failure. Microsoft is buying gaming companies left and right over the last few years, and as we now know, even tried to buy Nintendo. Rarely do we see such things played out right in front of our eyes, warts and all. I have a new appreciation for the hardball these folks can play, and I'm glad I'm just a game player and not a game maker.
Is E3 really all it is cracked up to be? I'm not so sure. Big events like this are hyped all year round and gamers lap it up like thirsty dogs at the water bowl. At least the folks behind Duke Nukem Forever have opted not to show up at the event and hype the game that is taking FOREVER just to get finished. Epic is cranking titles out at a rapid pace, so they have some credibility, as does ID Software, because they have an excellent track record of putting up the goods. Doom 3 should be a masterpiece, none of us doubt that, but who figured on Unreal Tournament 2003 being released this June? Unreal 2 looks promising, and is far along in development.
So what of the games that have been talked about year after year and never seem to show up? Well, many of those titles have been cancelled. You read about it all the time, particularly with MMPORPGs lately. The project is too ambitious and spirals out of control. Warcraft III will come to market this summer after all, but in a much smaller package then first envisioned. Less races, etc. It will still be very cool, just smaller.
Maybe companies like Croteam have the right idea. Release what you have, charge a little less for it, and follow it up with more content as it is finished. After all, Serious Sam has done quite well indeed, and the improvements from the First Encounter to the Second Encounter are noticeable. Had they waited another year or two to finish all three parts, the game may have looked dated and uncompetitive by comparison. As it stands, both games have sold well and filled the void as we wait for next generation products from Epic and the folks making Doom.