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Why do gamers hate Activision?

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Who says a Week of Hate has to be all hurt and no healing? Activision is a company people love to hate, but let’s take a break from dogpiling on the monolithic publisher for its past misdeeds. We thought it’d be more interesting if we could get to the bottom of all the abject ire and the hardcore schadenfreude, to get to the bottom of gamer’s beef with the company. To help us in our quest, Acitivsion’s own community manager, Dan Amrich is going to help us trace back the origins of the anger, where hopefully we can see of how the publisher of Pitfall has managed to cast one of the most negative shadows in the medium. And maybe, just maybe, we can curtail a smidgen of the overwhelming, disproportionate amount of hate.


Above: The Mouth of Sauron!

[Full Disclosure: Dan used to work here and is a very dear friend. What follows is more of a friendly conversation regarding semi-serious subject matter. If you’re looking for a scathing expose on Activision, you might want to look elsewhere. Better yet, go ask Dan yourself at his One of Swords blog or Twitter. Odds are he’ll get back to you.]


GameRadar: When exactly did Activision become the “evil empire?” As a post-Atari console gamer, they weren't even on my radar until the first Tony Hawk game.

Dan Amrich: I put it at December 2, 2007. That's when it was announced that Activision and Vivendi would merge. Vivendi owned Blizzard and Sierra at the time, so the resulting baby, in the summer of 2008, was Activision Blizzard. I think the moment Activision became the largest third-party game software publisher, the crosshairs moved from EA to Activision.


Above: KNEEL!

Suddenly people who had never really thought about who was at the company, what it really did, or anything other than "Yeah, I liked Pitfall when I was a kid and I like Tony Hawk games now," took a closer look and wanted to know more about who this major player was.

GR: That's what I was guessing. But the hatred seems to be fueled by more than just surpassing EA, perhaps something about beloved PC dynasties falling under the Activision umbrella?

DA: Which dynasties? I know I go back but to me Activision PC dynasties are games like MechWarrior 2 and, during the 90s when they had a distribution deal with id, Quake II and Doom 3. You mean the Blizzard stuff?

GR: Well, we're trying to trace back the ire. Yet in spite of their association with older PC stuff, they've tampered very little with those franchises.

DA: I think Activision is smarter than people give it credit for sometimes. If something works, you let it keep working. Blizzard knows what it’s doing - their track record of quality and innovation speaks for itself. If you own Blizzard - and many people have, there were like four other companies that acquired Blizzard before Activision was involved - well, you let Blizzard be Blizzard. You give them what they need to do what they do. Anybody with a brain would do exactly what Activision does now - support without meddling.

GR: So you don't think the Blizzard merger is where the internet’s anger comes from primarily?

DA: I think people hate Activision for a combination of things. One, they are top dog - I call it the Yankees syndrome. The Yankees win, and the Yankees are a well-funded team, so people like to hate them. But the Yankees also have a lot of passionate fans that support the team because they like what the team does and what it is. But when you have that many World Series rings, you have that many sluggers in your bullpen... you are the natural target for all the other teams. That's totally understandable.


Above: Art by graboids

GR: That's sort of what I was getting at. I think the misconstrued hate is, to some degree, a byproduct of being incredibly successful. Yet there's a disproportionate amount of people out there who seem to delight in anything bad that befalls Activision. Seemingly desperate for them to fall or fail… how happen?!

DA: It comes with the territory. And in gaming, we are all trained from birth to root for the underdog. Duke Nukem - he's one man with a lot of guns and even more one-liners. He is going to save the universe through gunfire and dirty jokes. We root for him because the odds are so incredibly against him. We love that fantasy. Every RPG - the Kid from the tiny villiage/island/planet/whatever, is going to go on a Great Adventure and make a Big Difference. We root for him because he is insignificant, because there is no way he will succeed unless we believe he will succeed. He's the underdog. Activision is a multi-billion dollar corporation with a string of hit franchises, global success, and market leadership. That does not sound anything like an underdog to me.

GR: Would you say that part of the anger comes from a perception of Activision's success being "bought, not earned?"

 DA: Activision has really earned its success. There's nothing to buy, you know? They make games that sell. They tell people about those games when they come out; they get as much attention as possible for those games so a lot of people will want to find out more and hopefully buy them. That does not make them unique compared to any other publisher out there, honestly. Every company wants the most success they can get, whether you're offering games or cars or you're a mom-and-pop restaurant down the block.

GR: But I still don't understand what drives a lot of the hate. People don't engage in the same kind of behavior in regards to successful companies like Nintendo, Rockstar or Valve. What makes Activision different?

DA: People are eager to see a company like Activision fail, and I think that's part of it. It's fun to rebel against authority... even if the authority is perceived. I mean, Activision makes games; you either like them or you don't. You buy them or you don't. The authority is the person opening with their wallet. So Activision is successful because a lot of people - even some of the most vocal critics - enjoy playing the games it makes. And that doesn't mean they do not have a legitimate criticism, but it does mean that they enjoy having it both ways.


Above: Activision's Singularity was a critical darling, but didn't make a huge impact at retail

Well, number two on the thing that causes the hate: I think Bobby Kotick has said a lot of things that people didn't like when they heard them. They didn't always hear them correctly - some were misquoted, some were accurately quoted but not in the full context, some were just jokes that bombed and got taken at face value - but they reacted to what they heard and made up their mind from there.

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Week of Hate

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73 comments

  • Mauden - October 24, 2012 7:18 a.m.

    *facedesk* No.. Not at all. Most people (Who've played said games, for the record) hate activision because of the way they act towards the people who play their games, take CoD: MW3 for example, we ask for nerfs to certain guns. Nothing. PC Gamers are plagued by hackers? Nothing. Post on the forums? "It's steams fault" AKA: Nothing. This. This is why most detest Activision, it's because we KNOW what they used to be like. They used to be AWESOME, now they're just in it to make as much money as they can with games they don't care about.
  • UltimateGamer324 - May 1, 2011 6:49 p.m.

    I love Activision, it is actually one of my Favorite video game companies. I am a HUGE fan of the Call of Duty franchise. I like everything that they have made, and hope to see more games in the future. COD fan for LIFE!!! Thank You Activision!!!
  • ActivisionsBoss - May 1, 2011 6:20 p.m.

    Sadly Actvision is not boss anymore
  • jmcgrotty - May 1, 2011 9:51 a.m.

    OK, I got annoyed at everyone after comment 30, and a few days since it was posted (meaning no one will see it... not intentional), so time for my not-important comments: (For the record, I couldn't care less about the company, good or bad. Why does a 10 year history of a developer affect your current purchase decisions? I understand the idea that some feel they have not proven themselves in the past, but the dev is something I would NEVER pay attention to. And this is important to me, so that I'm not accused of it, I am not a fan of any FPS'es/COD. That crap needs to end, regardless of dev.) He is absolutely right about why people hate Activision. It is because they are the top dog. The Yankees comparison was a perfect analogy. One comment made me have to quote directly: "they don't look at gamers as gamers, or games/ideas as that, they see statistics and money"... So, you are complaining that a company whose intent is to make money and not just be altruistic hippies is bad because they make what is proven to sell? I can see a little frustration when/if they cancelled a unique product, but you're a fool to hold them responsible for shovelware (with the exception being that their shovelware sells). Listen, you are thinking of it as if it a situation of picking one or the other. It isn't like they are saying "Should we make Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2099 vol. 40 or should be make a brand new IP, since we can't do both?" Each title is developed based on it's own unique situation. On a personal bias, ZigzMaroo, I can't believe you used a How I Met My Mother term ("you just got lawyered"). Of course, I know it because I watch the show, but I'd never admi--- Umm... nevermind. Here is my hypocritical comment now: I absolutely love the Kings Quest series. Please don't remake it. I am already frustrated at how far the series has come from it's original roots (Getting rid of typing in commands was a mistake). Leave Kings Quest to the The Silver Lining developers. Crap. I had 2 more points, but forgot them now. Blah.
  • DanAmrich - April 29, 2011 7:48 p.m.

    "I love how mega-corporations can act like this and then blame the consumers for said corporations own shortcomings." Mole, you gotta educate yourself, because right now you are part of the problem. Read my Kotick article, realize that you are passing around out-of-context quotes, and make the world a better place by being smarter than that. http://oneofswords.com/2010/08/bobby-kotick-those-infamous-comments/ If you find my research is inaccurate, show your work and let's talk.
  • DanAmrich - April 29, 2011 7:45 p.m.

    Kieran sent me a mail regarding the price of map packs, and I was in the middle of answering it when my PC freaked out, and now I can no longer find either his message or my response. Kieran, send me another note please.
  • Consti2tion - April 29, 2011 3:53 a.m.

    Obvious fluff piece is obvious. You insult gamers everywhere. i don't care if the guy used to work for you or not. call me when a real article gets written.
  • graboids - April 28, 2011 8:57 p.m.

    this article's images make it look like I hate Dan & Activision... I do not hate Dan :)
  • DanAmrich - April 28, 2011 8:51 p.m.

    @GwaR: "hit Dan with some actual hard questions and call him to the carpet with some specific scenarios in Activision's recent past. They've mis-handled plenty of things, by admission from multiple developers recently. So let's ask them to de-bunk those 'myths'." Drop me a line. If it's something I can comment on, I will, but if it's anything to do with a lawsuit, I'm probably not going to be able to offer any insight or even personal opinion. Your internet rage is not worth my job or my appearance on a witness stand. But otherwise...I was not bluffing with the two-way communication thing. My email is dan@oneofswords.com.
  • DanAmrich - April 28, 2011 8:48 p.m.

    I think a lot of people here totally missed the point, or only read what they wanted to read. I am not saying "Activision is big" is the ONLY reason people hate Activision; I said it's a factor. You say DLC is more than you want to pay? Well, developers gotta eat. I considered getting into the $15-for-5 vs the $10-for-3 model (which is what other games have done, with less criticism) but that's not the way the conversation went. You didn't want a plastic skateboard for Tony Hawk games? Well, you also said you didn't want to play another one like the old ones, and you constantly say you want innovation and fresh ideas. So they tried one, and went big on it. Didn't work out. Didn't sell. You didn't buy it, I'm guessing, so it didn't affect you personally. Unless you want to offer some respect for them trying a completely new idea and assuming all the fiscal and creative risk that came with it, it's time to let this one go. COD comes out every year? Yes, and the developers have two years to work on their title. The market has responded very strongly to this. If the devs are getting what they need and the gamers are getting what they very clearly want...I don't agree with this objection. Everything people are citing here as their personal reasons for hating Activision are valid. I don't agree with all of them, and there are other sides of this that people are not considering. Unpopular decisions that the company makes, from pricing to cancellations to marketing to whatever else you can think of, can be detailed until the cows come home. I can help rattle some of them off. Not listing them specifically doesn't mean you're wrong. Doesn't mean I'm wrong either. Chris and I could have gone on about a lot more, and I could have offered more than just the two examples I offered -- but he had a deadline, I had other stuff to do, and I think they are the biggest factors in how Activision got to where it is now as a star in the Week of Hate.
  • DanAmrich - April 28, 2011 8:36 p.m.

    @VaneTrago: It's funny how people recall history differently. I remember being personally harassed by PGNx members in IMs -- really childish stuff, frankly -- and if you can tell me how I was shitty to you, let's have a conversation. Because you're apparently holding a grudge for, what, 10 years -- and I don't even know what I supposedly did? You better bring some details, and they'd better be compelling. If you can disprove my research on Kotick's quote, you should step up there too.
  • TriforcePlayer - April 28, 2011 5:24 p.m.

    I've always enjoyed their superhero games. Looking forward to Edge of Time and Prototype 2. I hope they'll get Raven to make another X-Men Legends game.
  • IcePotato - April 28, 2011 2:25 a.m.

    I don't trust any game journalist who defends Activision.
  • Montag - April 28, 2011 1:53 a.m.

    I grew up with Activision so they have good vibes for me. Have to say that bringing back I76.......... Genius idea and day 1 for me if it ever happened! Which other games have a hip 70s funky poetry button? Like a lot.
  • fatguy19 - April 27, 2011 10:56 p.m.

    This article is very hypocritical. You spend the entire article bitching and moaning about all the horrible yhings people have said about Activision and how its all myths, and yet Gamesradar has posted many articles accusing activision of this very thing. In fact I think it is safe to say that most of the people you have berated have got all their information from this very website. This makes the author a fucking hypocrit
  • philipshaw - April 27, 2011 9:11 p.m.

    I respect the hell out of Dan but I think the reason people hate activision is because they don't listen to fans in the same way a huge company like Valve do and then implement changes according to feedback No one wanted a Tony Hawk game that had a plastic board, I'm a huge THPS fan and I would be happy to see a HD remake of THPS3 on XBL or PSN. That would go a long way to making gamers happy
  • rxb - April 27, 2011 7:33 p.m.

    Funny read, Its gotta be a hard job defending Activision.
  • GwaR - April 27, 2011 7:32 p.m.

    @ Chris Antista I appreciate what you tried to do here. I've got to agree with a lot of the other comments, though, and say that your article missed the mark. I get it that Dan's your buddy and you don't want to burn him at the stake, or don't feel it's warranted, but YOU DID PUSSY-FOOT AROUND THE CORE ISSUES. Go back and re-read your own article with a critical eye. You failed to mention almost all of the reasons gamers actually hate on Activision. It sure as hell isn't because they're the 'biggest kid on the block-BS'. That's a corporate scape-goat that Activision themselves created to try and get some positive PR spin just a few weeks ago. Don't feed us their crap, hit Dan with some actual hard questions and call him to the carpet with some specific scenarios in Activision's recent past. They've mis-handled plenty of things, by admission from multiple developers recently. So let's ask them to de-bunk those 'myths'. Is Activision really that bad? Nope, probably not. They're a business and have to do what they feel is right for their bottom line. I would guess their biggest sin is probably just doing a terrible job on the PR side and not locking Bobby Kotick's mouth behind sound-proof glass, as soon as he started saying things that pissed off gamers. You as a journalist have to do a bit more, though. I normally come to GR because, 1) you guys are funny and 2) because you normally cut right through this kind of BS to get to the heart of the issue. Please take this as constructive criticism: I really feel you could've done a lot better on this one.
  • avantguardian - April 27, 2011 6:31 p.m.

    this is bad you guys... it feels...dirty...political. i'm sorry, just an honest reaction. i love me some GR, but this...
  • d0x - April 27, 2011 5:58 p.m.

    I hate them for buying good studios then forcing them to make stupid games then killing said studio. I also hate the attitude of their ceo, their policies on DLC as well as the insane pricing (and yes I vote with my wallet). I really dont like seeing franchises milked to death and we all thought EA was bad but Activision is easily 100x worse in this regard. I also hate the whole Infinity Ward saga. Activision doesnt give a damn about gamers and it shows therefore I stopped sending them my money.

Showing 1-20 of 73 comments

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