According to Pachter, Sam and Dan Houser, founders of Take-Two publisher subsidiary Rockstar Games, have a contract with Take-Two that expires in February 2009. Following the precedent of Bungie Studios' epic maneuver to independence in October, the Housers may then attempt to gauge the company's value on the market.
"I don't think that this is an issue of dissatisfaction with Take-Two; rather, I think it is rational to believe that in the wake of the $850 million Pandemic/BioWare deal, high quality developers like Bungie and [Rockstar] North would look to test their market value," said Pachter. Rockstar North has famously enjoyed a great amount of freedom under Take-Two, as the developer of what is by far the company's strongest property.
Pachter also pointed out that the Housers remain close to key members of the Rockstar North development team, including Les Benzies, who is part of the studio's management team and also directs development of the Grand Theft Auto games. The studio was formerly known as DMA Design, and became part of Take-Two prior to the release of Grand Theft Auto III.
Rockstar North's next game, Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3, X360), is expected early next year. New screenshots were just released, with a new trailer expected today.
In a GameDaily piece published yesterday, Pachter characterized the possibility of a split as "pull[ing] a Bungie." He does not expect EA to look at Take-Two as a potential acquisition in order to compete with newly created behemoth Activision Blizzard. "An EA acquisition would not happen unless there was some assurance that the key employees at R* planned to stick around," he added to Shacknews. "That risk is enough to scare EA away."