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Why do gamers hate Activision?

GR: As a sensationalizing member of the lowly gaming press, I know you aren't wrong. We love a good inflammatory quote, but I HATE it when people use a joke out of context as ammunition.

DA: Well, when I came to Activision, I was still fresh off the KOXM podcast, where I would regularly play devil's advocate to whatever Ryan McCaffrey said. It was good for the show. And when Bobby would say something, I honestly asked, "He can't really have meant that the way it was reported, can he?" I mean, it just simply didn't make SENSE that someone would do that. So I went back to the transcripts and the press coverage - all of which was available online - and tried to look at the context of those statements. Anybody could have done it, but I obviously had a reason to do that research. I wish I had thought to do it before leaving OXM, but things got really bad for the company's image in the three months between my gig at OXM and my gig at Activision.
   
GR: As fun as it is to take Bobby Kotick quote out of context and get enraged, I also love reading your explanations.


Above: Art by graboids

DA: Yeah, I have a full research paper on my blog called Bobby Kotick: Those Infamous Comments, where I found that a lot of what he said was not interpreted correctly - maybe mistakenly, maybe willfully, but still wrong. And I showed all my work and explained what I have found. So far nobody has been able to disprove my research.

GR: So do you think Activision can improve its standing with core gamers?

DA: I think Activision has to keep making games that people want to play, first and foremost. If the games were not making people react, then they would not want to follow a soap opera around those games. But I'd like to think it's both ways -- Activision should keep trying to be transparent, to show skeptical gamers "this is why this was done" and "this is how we feel about this thing which you also care about very deeply" -- that's step one.

But gamers, on their part, have to be willing to listen to those things and take them at face value. If the audience says "But I don't care because you're Activision," well, that won't work either. Activision could be giving orphan kids prosthetic limbs and you'd still have haters who say they're building a cybernetic army for their own nefarious purposes. Some people are going to hate because hating is more fun. But if we can get both sides to lower that wall a bit - the big corporate wall and the gamer knee-jerk reaction - then we might be able to get somewhere. But at the end of the day, if the games are not good, nobody will care anyway.


Above: Art by graboids

Also, you know, people love to focus on Bobby, but he's not the only guy here. I think he makes the easiest target because he's the guy at the top - you know, if you get a meal you don't like, you want to talk to the manager, not the chef. But people like Eric Hirshberg - the CEO of Activision Publishing - are very active in the creative decisions. I am really eager to see what happens here with Eric in that role. He's the guy who helped create Kevin Butler for Sony; he's a gamer and he knows games too. So maybe some fresh blood will change the dialogue, too.

GR: That makes me wonder... looking at Activision's titles, is pleasing the core even in Activision’s best interest? Call of Duty and high profile licenses aside, it looks like Activision could be content to make/publish Cabela Hunter and Shrek games without having to deal with an audience that seems hell bent on hating whatever they do.

DA: That's the other dirty secret about Activision - those mass-market titles are very successful, but to a completely different segment of the audience. After GH and Tony Hawk were put on hold for 2011 and True Crime was stopped, I heard a lot of people say "Now all you have is Call of Duty and World of Warcraft." Well, no - there are games like Cabela's and Wipeout and iCarly and stuff most core gamers probably don't even realize exist.


Above: Forgot about Shrek, didn’t ya?

They're not actively marketed at them so those games become invisible. And it's a given that even games like Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions or Transformers: War for Cybertron are going to get a certain amount of attention because they are based on big existing franchises, but that doesn't mean they have not earned their success.

War for Cybertron got a lot of love from Transformers fans but I also heard from folks who said "Wow, that was way better than I thought." They went in with lower expectations because of the license, which is sort of unfair. Every game is its own game, licensed or no. And the truth is that core gamers have their games, and mass gamers have their games. Feel free to cross over, but expectations are not the same on both sides.


Above: Transformer: War for Cybertron = good shit

GR: So you don't see Activision embracing a full on "casual games" route? It would make more sense within its cutthroat business model, plus they wouldn't have to deal with a finicky, largely unappeasable fanbase?

DA: I don't really think so. I have no indication here to suggest that Activision is going to abandon the core gamer. I've seen some stuff in the works that is being made for the hardcore, and some that widens the scope.

GR: Good! That's actually something that scares me... Activision's obtained so many old and beloved franchises from its numerous acquisitions, I'd hate to see them abandon the focus altogether because people tend to throw virtual riots of Call of Duty DLC pricing. That said, is there any old franchise in Activision's stable you'd like to see them resurrect?

DA: Activision's IP library is ridiculously awesome. I know I never shut up about Interstate 76, so if I could have anything come back, it's that. I don't expect it, but then again, people asked for a new King's Quest game for years, and now Telltale is working on one. Pitfall came back not once, but twice, when there looked like an opportunity.


Above: Never gets old

Franchises rest, sometimes for a while, but franchises don't really die. I mean, look at NBA Jam. Look at You Don't Know Jack. Look at Kid Icarus. The only thing they needed to be active again was a good enough idea and good timing. I don't think anything in the vault is gone forever… it's just waiting.

Topics

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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