Blinded by Hate: Gamers and Activision - Demon Ragnarok Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Blinded by Hate: Gamers and Activision

Most of you already realize there are a lot of people out there that have an unhealthy and deep seated hatred for Activision and it's CEO, Bobby Kotick. If you didn't realize this, welcome out from under whatever rock you have been living under.

Many will site his statement of wanting to take the fun out of games (more specifically his statement "The goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks into Activision about 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games." Which for those of you that don't comprehend this statement means he put people that aren't interested in video games into paper pushing positions so that the focus is on the business portion that they are there for, rather than how cool the industry is), his statement that he would love to see game prices raised (taken out of context, it was actually a joke regarding the ease it would provide the business side of game making for his company), or the most recent legal matter that has developed with Infinity Ward heads West and Zampella as their reason for hating the company. I am by no means the biggest fan of the publisher, but the reasoning behind this hatred has really started to go way too far in the gaming community, and I honestly feel that video game journalists bare just as much blame as the rabid gamers that refuse to look into things beyond what they are told by the media. That being said, the purpose of this blog is to brings some sense back to the gaming community and perhaps a bit of perspective that most have not considered.

Kotick's Statements

You have all seen them at one point in time or another. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick will make a statement and for the next several days that will be the only thing that is talked about. Often times these statements are taken completely out of context, helping to further portray him as an evil, shrewd businessman who takes delight in watching gamers suffer (which gets a lot of hits on video game websites). However, there are also another set of statements that are purposely off the wall, and serve as a great distraction from key events happening within the industry.

For instance, look at the start of the Tokyo Game Show this year. Kotick was quoted as saying "Activision is 'likely' to look at the possibility of selling in-game cutscenes from games like StarCraft II as standalone movies." Note that he said they were "likely" to look into the "possibility", meaning that it's just something they haven't seriously considered. However, when it was reported here in Game Informer, the title of the article was Kotick: Activision Planning to Sell Game Cutscenes As Standalone Products. Anyone else see the disconnect between what was said and how it was reported?

This statement alone and the media coverage of it managed to distract or complete silenced talk of several announced games from that day. In fact, of all the games announced that day, only one manged to garner more attention (views/comments) than Kotick's comment (New Devil May Cry), which is amazing considering the pedigree of some of the games announced (not listing them all, you can look here for a full list).

Considering the attention garnered by these comments, and a study that I once read regarding marketing techniques (it doesn't matter what you think of the advertisement, so long as you remember the product when it comes time to purchase), I have come to the conclusion that Kotick might very well be one of the smartest businessmen in the industry to date. He has managed to find a way to keep his company's name fresh in people's minds without having to constantly pay for advertising.People may not like the way he advertises, but as long as it doesn't prevent potential customers from purchasing his company's products, then he is doing good at his job.

The Business

I honestly think that the biggest issue for gamers in regards to Kotick is that many people fail to realize what the goal of a publisher is. Many people idealize a publisher as having an integral role in the creation of a game, when in reality, their role is more in the distribution of the game (business rather than creation). So when people see Kotick, the head of the largest publisher talking business rather than creativity, there is a natural reaction to be put off by the discussion of business and money in something that is associated with fun and entertainment.

Many people are also put off by Activision's business model of "milking series." Many people will state that they are releasing relatively the same game with each new installment. However, they fail to acknowledge that trying something new and different does not in any way guarantee success. For instance, look at games like Alan Wake, or Bayonetta. Both received fairly high critical acclaim and brought something new and different to their genres that brought new life to what could be considered some over used genres. However, both of these games were commercially unsuccessful.

In the case of Activision, if they find something that sells, the will put out something similar. The reason behind it is, if it is successful once, it will likely be successful again. In doing so, they succeed on the business side of the industry (the goal of a publisher). The games may not be my personal cup of tea, but I'm not the type that will buy something just because it is popular (still firm in my refusal to purchase Black Ops).

In the end, it is up to the consumer to decide if what the publisher is providing them is what they want or not. In the case of Activision, their success speaks for itself in that they are providing what many people want (with the exception of Tony Hawk).

West-Zampella

The firing of West and Zampella. I think this has been the biggest catalyst for hatred toward Activision in the last year.

Who is responsible for the success of Infinity Ward? According to court documents, when Activision purchased Infinity Ward, it was apparently only worth $5 million, and was struggling financially. Seven years after the purchase, the company has seen it's revenue tip the scales at over $3 billion. West and Zampella may have provided the creative elements to pave the way for this success, but without Activision's backing, it would not have been possible.

For the gaming community though, they are again drawn to the creative side of the symbiotic relationship, with most siding with West and Zampella in this instance, despite strong evidence being displayed by Activision to show that West and Zampella had violated the terms of their contract. Gamers have presumed West and Zampella innocent and I strongly feel that no amount of evidence will change their minds on the matter.

Right now, as it stands, Activision appears to have a strong case against the former heads of Infinity Ward. I am very interested to see what the reaction will be if the court finds in favor of Activision. As it stands now, most articles have anything to do with Activision and it's CEO Kotick are littered with insults and even comments in which people state a desire to physically harm Kotick. I actually find it funny to see this behavior on Game Informer because on an article about Gabe Newell talking about Xbox Live, some members were threatened with getting banned for making comments about Gabe's weight. I'm not implying that Game Informer should have allowed the comments that were going on about Gabe, but as a non-bias news outlet, you can't show a preference like that.

The Call of Duty Endowment

Last November, Activision announced the formation of the Call of Duty Endowment, an organization set up to help donate money to veterans groups as well as issue scholarships to veterans, with the goal of lowering the unemployment rate of veterans after leaving the service. If you would like to learn more about the CODE, you can visit their website. I find it quite admirable to see this kind of program set up by publisher that really has no requirement to do so. It is also nice to see a publisher show respect to veterans openly rather than take a standoff like stance with veterans groups and family members of deceased soldiers.

In the end, I think that many gamers have been caught up in the mob mentality of hatred toward Activision. For many it has become almost a crusade for them to not purchase any Activision title, not realizing that the damage done is not to the Publisher, but to the developers under them. I don't know about you, but even if Activision was this completely evil entity that everyone makes it out to be, I couldn't boycott their games simply because it is a very tough job market right now, and no matter how righteous I might see myself what would it say about me if my actions were to cause someone or an entire development studio to go under?

At the end of the day, the only thing left is for people to

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