Speculation is running hot about shuffling, shouldering and handshaking in Australia's software games development and distribution industries, which are currently undergoing significant turmoil and rationalisation.
Recent events have seen one player (Ozisoft) sold to French company Infogrames Entertainment last week and another (Beam International) voluntarily suspend trading of its stock while negotiating the sale of a struggling software games development division.
Meanwhile, a third (Roadshow Interactive) has recently denied rumours circulating about it getting out of the computer games business altogether.
After announcing last week it had purchased a 62.5 per cent stake in games distributor Ozisoft, Infogrames, which claims to be Europe's largest games developer, publisher and distributor, is now gunning for local developer Beam. However, speculation in the channel is that Beam is also being courted by other big-name global companies, possibly including Electronic Arts and GT Interactive.
Beam has been in trouble for a while and reported a loss of $2.3 million for the 12 months to the end of 1998 to the Australian Stock Exchange. It has reportedly been seeking buyers for two months.
The downfall of Beam's games development arm is likely to cost the jobs of about 75 per cent of the company's 130 staff, though many could expect to be picked up by any new owner to work on games currently in development.
With Infogrames claiming to be keen on retaining Ozisoft's good name here in Australia, taking on Beam's development team would add additional local content to its product inventory. It is believed that Infogrames made a firm offer to Beam, but they are still waiting to hear back as discussions with other potential buyers continue.
No Beam shares are expected to be traded until it announces who the eventual buyer is of its games development.
Roadshow Interactive is yet to announce its infrastructural changes, but Chris Chard, managing director of parent company Roadshow Entertainment, said last week there was something in the offing.
"What you are probably going to see is the conglomeration of a couple of significant players including Roadshow Interactive," he said (see ARN Feb 10, page 10).
ARN Daily will report on developments as they happen.