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Activision aims to break free of consoles

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick is no stranger to controversy. He didn’t win any friends withthreatsto drop support for Sony platforms or with a call totake the fun out of making video games, but now he’s at it again.

Above: How dare you play this for “free”

Repeating points from a recentWall Street Journalinterview in an interview with theFinancial Times, Kotick talked about his displeasure with the fact that Activision doesn’t see any profits from Call of Duty online play. Map packs and add-ons provide a substantial profit to Activision, but they don’t see any share of the annual subscription fees Microsoft collects for Xbox Live.

These statements may seem unusual, but Kotick gives his reasoning behind the comments, stating “We’ve heard that 60 per cent of [Microsoft’s] subscribers are principally on Live because of Call of Duty”.

It would be interesting to discover where Kotick heard this statistic and how one defines “because of”. Call of Duty may be a juggernaut for online play, but suggesting that 60% of players are driven to the eight-year-old service because of a franchise other than Halo sounds dubious.

Above: Whether you think he’s a crazy man, a raging egomaniac, or a brilliant businessman, make no mistake: Bobby Kotick doesn’t give a shit what you think

Then again, it’s not we who have to believe it, but Kotick, who clearly does. He would prefer a subscription based model where Activision provides its own online network, similar to World of Warcraft. In order to support this, Kotick would like to break the consoles’ “walled gardens with new gamer-friendly PCs, designed to be plugged into the television.” Activision will “very aggressively” support efforts by Dell and HP to connect PCs to TVs.

It would be nice to see PC gaming regain its former prominence, but no one can deny that consoles have been king for years. Moving away from them could be a very bad move for Activision. Additionally, though the idea of a Call of Duty MMO is a tantalizing prospect and many gamers would be willing to pay a subscription fee if the game was worth it, many MMOs have been moving toward free-to-play models recently. So it seems the industry is actually moving in the opposite direction.

With all of that in mind, Activision isn’t likely to abandon consoles completely or tack on a subscription fee for console online play. The company wields a big stick in the industry, but it wouldn’t risk a move that reckless. No one is that arrogant. Right? Maybe it’s best you don’t answer that.

Jul 8, 2010