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Fact: Activision is not a 'monolithic empire' (says Activision)

Considering all the studio shutdowns, franchise cancellations, wayward Bobby Kotick quotes and accusations of rampant douchebaggery from ex-staffers, one could assume Activision is run by soulless fat cats who wipe their asses with dollar bills and kick puppies into wood chippers. They could assume this, but they would be wrong; at least, that's according to Activision, which recently defended its less-than-spectacular public image by claiming that the bad publicity it receives is simply a byproduct of its success, and that it is far from the 'monolithic empire' it's been painted to be.

In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Activision's head of developer relations, Dan Winters, lamented the company's dwindling image, recalling a time when it was regarded as the "scrappy, loveable number two" behind EA. According to Winters, Activision's reputation began to turn sour when it merged with Blizzard and became the powerhouse it is today, thus adopting the negative stereotypes associated with being the top dog.

"We haven't changed! I'm the same guy that I was before the merger, as are most of us. We're the same organisation," insisted Winters, adding, "We haven't gone out and hired 3000 people. Our ability to scale and move quickly is the same as it was before. We're not this big, monolithic empire that's making decisions in a dark room, we're still very collaborative. We still have the same healthy respect and appreciation for talent that we ever did."

Winters further refuted the notion that Activision was in any way a hindrance to the creative and developmental processes of the developers under its employ, insisting that it acknowledges and wholeheartedly respects the significant role its studios and partners play in the publisher's growth.

"We recognise that the success we've had as a company comes from the talent of those individuals and those teams. We would like to think that we're able to compliment that talent and high-quality product with the ability to move things through the right channels, and that's great, I think that's part of our magic sauce," he added.

These sentiments appear to contrast recent accounts from Ex-Bizarre Creations staffers who claimed that Actvision was more than a little meddlesome in the studio's affairs (this is, of course, before Activision went and closed the entire operation altogether). Speaking to the publisher's interaction with its talent in general, Winters claimed, "With all of our internal studios we have built a process, Bobby [Kotick, CEO] has really done this directly himself, built a process for the independent developer model, that allows them to retain their own culture, their own visibility, their own leadership, really to drive the stewards of the brands. I think those are important pieces of ownership, as it's loosely defined."

So which is it: monolithic empire or misunderstood giant? On one hand, it's all too easy to take a cynical stance towards any company that reaches Activision's size, but then, it's not like Activision has been dominating the news with feel good stories. And then, maybe it's not a matter of good and evil. Maybe it's just a matter of doing business. Or is Activision full of crap? Or am I full of crap? Debate!

[Source: Gamesindustry.biz, Edge]

April 14, 2011

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44 comments

  • ZigzMagoo - April 18, 2011 7:05 a.m.

    @igothitwithabulb I don't think Call of Duty will wreck the game industry, due to Modern Warfare 3 probably being terrible after Infinity Ward being wrecked and Sledgehammer not having any experience. There is also Battlefield 3 coming out this fall, which I guarantee will destroy any Cal of Duty. Not to mention that people are already moving away from Call of Duty. After the Black Ops glitch fest, I dont think that the new one will sell as well. All thats going to happen is Call of Duty being run into the ground by Activision. Just like guitar Hero and Tony Hawk.
  • igothitwithabulb - April 18, 2011 1:09 a.m.

    The thing is, Blizzard is almost a backup: they can point at them and say "Look, we haven't changed them at all, they're still the unique company they were twenty years ago, and we won't ruin it." This may be true (thank God for that), but they say this while pushing into the closet all of the developers with unique talent that aren't able to churn out $500 million launch days or seven years of 12 million $15/month subscribers. The industry can't live on the expectation that if a game is good, it needs to sell insanely well insanely quickly. I mean, think about it: if any developer signed with Activision even THOUGHT of doing something like the Humble Indie Bundle, they would be shot down (and probably closed). To put it simply, Call of Duty may very well crash the gaming world.
  • ZigzMagoo - April 17, 2011 5:48 a.m.

    @RebornKusabi So what Enron, AIG, Bernie Madoff and every other shady business did to its investors and customers wasn't evil? Face the facts, business isn't excused from morality. That is why there are laws to combat extremes. What activision doing is evil, in that they are acting selfishly, are being destructive towards the industry and customers to get more money, and are lying about their actions in the process. you don't have to be a Christian to understand that there is basic good and evil, and I'm pretty sure that being a selfish, hurtful, lier is evil
  • RebornKusabi - April 16, 2011 3:15 a.m.

    I don't think they're evil because right and wrong doesn't apply to a business structure adequately. However I do think they're f**king stupid and their business model will kill them if they don't reign in this whole "killing off developers if they ARE NOT profitable" crap. Putting Bizarre onto a James Bond project was literally autistic of them... The fact that they have to make this whole assertation REEKS of public relations and attempting to save face for their company.
  • razorwiretensho - April 16, 2011 1:54 a.m.

    Activision is not evil! It loves you like a parent, now go and buy some of their games... I promise they don't suck! Sincerely, Not Activision
  • ThatGuyFromTV - April 15, 2011 7:17 p.m.

    I think if someone pulls Kotick out of the CEO spot it'll be a hell of an improvement.
  • SpikroddNG - April 15, 2011 4:25 p.m.

    A company this large in this media has never before existed, and based on what's happening right now with bad PR, company shutdowns and essentially all power dedicated to ONE franchise, is that Activision is on the slippery slope to a catastrophic meltdown; the Chernobyl of gaming is among us. Let's put it this way: if the next Call of Duty game fails to impress, fans will stop playing the series. Sure, sales will hit another record in it's usual fashion, but the company's rep will go downhill in the process, and where can they go game-development-wise after that? Nowhere. I'm just hoping for the day they just go insane and close down Blizzard... if that happens, at least 30 million people and the entire nation of South Korea will want Bobby Kotick's head on a pike.
  • XoDuS - April 15, 2011 9:11 a.m.

    @FVDub....Gotta agree with you totally.....I still tear a little for Bizarre Creations...
  • ALttP - April 15, 2011 7:31 a.m.

    It's funny that when they're cancelling Brutal Legend, Ghostbusters, and True Crime - and then suing the publishers of the aforementioned two titles after saying that they only want games that can be exploited (their words), they're ascribing their poor public perception to "being on top". There's a good reason why Valve is not as hated as Activision. Does Activision seriously not think that they have earned their poor reputation?
  • gkrebbs - April 15, 2011 7:22 a.m.

    "We recognize that the success we've had as a company comes from the talent of those individuals and those teams" Gee guy, it's not that PC gamers weren't there from the start playing your games while you grew up and then combined with other organizations whose games we were also playing? It's not our money that made you a success? I have to agree with Mindkill in that when the consoles came along, PC gamers began getting left in the dust with all of the console ports and as he said the crap map packs too. Get real Winters! There is no Santa Claus... BTW you spelled a few words wrong, it's "recognize" and "organization".
  • FinderKeeper - April 15, 2011 7:08 a.m.

    A little late for April Fools, but then again Activision probably bought the development rights to the "April Fools" IP and is now suffocating it by churning out daily doses of prankage. Methinks they doth protest too much.
  • QWERTYCommander - April 15, 2011 6:06 a.m.

    So... milking a franchise dry before suddenly killing it off isn't evil in the slightest? Tony Hawk: A good series, got an entry that changed a lot (THUG), and was milked until Shred got rushed out to die. Guitar Hero: A good series, got an entry that changed a lot (GH3), and was milked until Warriors of Rock got rushed out to die. Call of Duty: A good series, got an entry that changed a lot (CoD4), and is currently getting milked, and currently set to suffer the same fate as the other two. And the story about what Bizarre's employees were thinking when they were making Blur is heartbreaking. Add that with what they did with Singularity, what they did to Infinity Ward, what they did to Neversoft, and what they did to Harmonix, and you can safely say that they were saying this with a forced grin.
  • tyler_14_420 - April 15, 2011 4:57 a.m.

    Activision has a bad reputation because it has a variety of class-action lawsuits against it, which suggest it's doing bad practice. They have done rediculous things like locking developers out of their studio and blasting people with accusations before firing them without their due pay that they were contracted for. Activision has become a money-grubbing corporation that sucks Bobby Kotick's dick, a wide variety of quotes from Bobby Kotick shows that he is uncaring about the direction of the industry and how his company runs. It's becoming a company full of pretentious douchebags who try to defend their shady business practices that bring in more money.
  • SlinkyDink - April 15, 2011 4:46 a.m.

    Activision is the epitome of evil. I just wish it mattered, millions of idiots are still gonna buy the next CoD regardless. It disgusts me.
  • Japanaman - April 15, 2011 3:19 a.m.

    ... Says Activision.
  • Oliolioliooo - April 15, 2011 2:42 a.m.

    If it weren't for CoD 4, WaW and BOps wouldn't have made it through. Oh hey...Activision were firing Infinity Ward employees...makes perfect since. Hope Activision loses their lawsuits.
  • D0CCON - April 15, 2011 2:16 a.m.

    I read the title of the article and instantly thought of that one lady running for office who had the "I am not a Witch" ad. That lady didn't do very well come election day.
  • Markstone - April 15, 2011 2:02 a.m.

    Maybe if they stopped releasing COD (and guitar hero) EVERY YEAR then they wouldn't be an evil 'monolithic empire'.
  • ZigzMagoo - April 15, 2011 1:33 a.m.

    Fuck Activision. Fuck Call of Duty. The only good Call of Duty there has ever been was Call of duty 4. Despite EA being a mega studio, at least they give room for their developers to work, and their games generally turn out different. Battlefield will always be better than Call of Duty
  • TheRandomFool - April 15, 2011 1:28 a.m.

    Yep, they are evil. Them and the CODfish they rode in on. They really ought to get off that thing and ride the moneyraft of ingenuity into the distance. EA has Bioware, EA wins.

Showing 1-20 of 44 comments

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