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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, 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!

[, Edge]

April 14, 2011

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