With Microsoft buying out Activision and IGN buying out Gamer Network both resulting in layoffs I have to ask how do companies avoid acquisition?

Honestly, there are only two requirements to avoid an acquisition:

  1. The studio's controlling stakeholders/majority owners want the company to remain independent and do not want to cash out
  2. The company remains financially stable enough not to need a bailout

If the studio ownership decides they want to retire or cash out, they will be open to opportunities to sell. This is usually something of an inevitability - we are human and life priorities change over time. Things might be good for a few years, but a life-changing experience like having children, the death of a loved one, or other life-altering events could easily change circumstances.

The vast majority of the time, it's because the company is already in dire financial straits and needs a bailout. If the company can't afford to keep things running, they'll either look for a bailout (typically in the form of acquisition) or they'll be forced to shut down and lay everybody off. If the company can't earn enough to pay its debts, employees, and overhead costs, it won't be in business for long.

That's really it. All acquisitions happen when either the first or the second requirement (or both) is no longer being met. Either the owners decide they want to sell or the company is in desperate need of money and must either sell or close. Many companies don't even get to secure a buyout, they often die because they can't find a buyer (or other new source of funding) and run out of money.

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