Electronic Arts ( ERTS) jumped into the acquisition game on Wednesday, agreeing to purchase U.K.-based Criterion Software Group. Video game software giant Electronic Arts acquired Criterion because of its intellectual property and game studio, EA spokeswoman Trudy Muller said. Criterion is the developer behind EA's Burnout racing game franchise and the creator of RenderWare, a widely used piece of software used in game development. "We see it as a good investment," Muller said, adding that EA expects to start seeing returns from the acquisition when Burnout 3 debuts later this quarter. The companies expect the deal to close within the next 30 to 45 days. They did not give any details on the agreement, such as the purchase price or whether EA used stock or cash for the acquisition. Electronic Arts' shares were recently down 88 cents, or 1.7%, to $49.87. Criterion has more than 200 employees in offices located in Europe, the U.S. and Japan. Muller said EA hadn't determined yet if the merger would result in any layoffs. But she said the company planned to add to the number of employees working on Criterion's titles and to keep Criterion's current offices. In addition to the Burnout franchise, Criterion plans to release a first-person shooter game entitled Black next year. RenderWare is a piece of middleware, a software layer that lies below the game interface and on top of the console code. According to Criterion's Web site, the technology is used by companies such as Activision ( ATVI), THQ ( THQI) and Take Two's ( TTWO) Rockstar Games to develop game graphics, audio and artificial intelligence. EA will continue to offer RenderWare to other game developers, Muller said. But the company expects to combine the technology with its own software tools as it prepares for the next generation of game consoles, which are expected to launch as soon as next year. "This helps us accelerate our readiness on 'next-gen' hardware," Muller said. EA's acquisition is only the latest sign of consolidation in the video game arena. Eidos ( EIDSY), another U.K. video game developer,
announced last month that it would consider being taken over. Meanwhile, Viacom ( VIAB) chairman Sumner Redstone has been buying up shares of Midway ( MWY) and is considering taking the company private. And earlier this month, Acclaim Entertainment ( AKLM) warned that it may soon wind up in bankruptcy.