Ex-Infogrames boss Bruno Bonnell’s one-man mission to buy every company worth owning in games is as impressive as it is tragic.
It all started back in 1996, when the firm snapped up Ocean Software in a shock move for approximately $100 million. Philips Media BV followed in 1997.
In 1998, the firm acquired a 62.5 per cent share in distributor OziSoft, which became Infogrames Australia. A flurry of distie targets followed, including ABS Multimedia, Arcadia and Gamecity GmbH.
The cash really started flowing in 1999, with the purchase of Gremlin Interactive for $40 million, Accolade for $60 million and Beam Software, which would later become developer Melbourne House.
The same year would see one of the most expensive acquisitions in the company’s history, with the $135 million purchase of 70 per cent of GT Interactive – buying both the company and its $75 million debt.
Included in the GT Interactive purchase were studios Humongous Entertainment, Legend Entertainment, and Reflections Interactive – which created the Driver franchise.
The turn of the millennium saw no slowdown in Bonnell’s spending spree, as Paradigm Entertainment was snapped up for $19.5 million and in-flight games developer Den-o-Tech Int. (DTI) was acquired for $5.6 million.
In 2001, the firm purchased Hasbro Interactive and brand Game.com from Hasbro for another $100 million, which came with the Atari brand and classic properties associated with the label.
Finally, in 2002, Infogrames acquired the remaining 80 per cent of game development studio Eden Games for $4.1 million and Shiny Entertainment for $47 million, with which it obtained rights to develop and publish Enter The Matrix.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
The company’s debt increased from $55 million in 1999 to $493 million in 2002, setting up a period of great uncertainty for Infogrames and the Atari brand – especially on Nasdaq.
It ended up losing many of its assets: (Gremlin, renamed Infogrames Sheffield House, closed in 2003; Reflections and the Driver franchise were sold to Ubisoft for $24 million in 2006; Melbourne House was sold to Oz company Krome in the same year).
However, recent investment and the appointment of Phil Harrison and David Gardner in senior positions mean things are really looking up for the firm. Former Infogrames boss Bruno Bonnell left the company with over $3 million in severance pay.