For some odd reason when really big companies come under fire from the general public or a certain demographic that they cater to within the general public, they seem to think that the public has misconceived what the company is about or, in some way, lost sight of the company’s aim. That’s exactly what Activision CEO, Eric Hirshberg, put forth in a Q&A with Industry Gamer. In the recent interview Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg thinks the community is misinterpreting what Activision is about and there are plans to reverse the perception the community has on the company. Furthermore, Hirshberg isn’t wasting any time with the few short months he’s been with the publishing giant and has already put into motion ways to alter the way Activision is viewed by the public.
The problem is that it has nothing to do with company perception. Just like Hirshberg seems to misunderstand that the gaming industry is transparent, much like our Government since the Wikileaks cables were released. The reality is that news outlets let loose all sorts of information that give gamers complete insight into what’s happening with today’s industry. The entire Infinity Ward debacle certainly didn’t win Activision any awards and for a company to make as much money as they do with an annual release of what’s now the biggest franchise this generation (i.e., Call of Duty) why the heck are these games so broken right out of the dang box? Hirshberg seems to think that common sense and gamers seeing the company for what it is somehow relates to gamers having the wrong perception of Activision.
In the interview, Hirshberg makes the biggest mistake of comparing the “industry hate” towards Activision with that of the PS3 bashing, which occurred mostly throughout 2006 and 2007. He is right in that a lot of core gamers felt that Sony veered from promoting the PS3 as a game console and instead promoted it more-so as an all-around home entertainment device. What Hirshberg fails to understand is that the PS3 WAS NOT promoted as a gaming device throughout most of 2006 and 2007. If memory (and a few article links) serve me correctly, the PS3 was the spearhead in the format wars that had Blu-Ray and HD-DVD formats going head-to-head. Throughout this time the Xbox 360 was promoted as the go-to console for great games and the PS3 was promoted as a Blu-Ray player that doubled as a gaming console. Simply put, gamers were pissed they had to wait for 2008 to receive decent games from a system that was supposed to be a gaming console to begin with; hence, the bashing throughout 2006 and 2007 of the PS3.
Hirshberg also failed to acknowledge that it wasn’t just journalists and gamers pissed at Sony, many developers weren’t thrilled with how little support they received for making PS3 games “next gen” worthy. Again, all the bashing Sony received for failing on the front of providing gamers with a suitable gaming console out of the box is bashing they deserved. However, as an innovator in electronics Sony deserves praise because they killed two birds with one stone (i.e., making a next gen console and offering a new media format in the process), and managed to win the format war.
The difference between Sony and Activision is that Sony went in looking to win the format wars with the secondary goal of providing gamers with a kickbutt gaming console. Activision, however, is a software publisher. People aren’t praising Activision for some other amazing talent that’s changing the media format wars or entertainment industry as a whole.
Take note, though, that while many (non-fanboy) gamers were bashing the PS3’s lack of software support early on, many electronic and techie enthusiast were praising the PS3’s overall entertainment appeal (see CNET’s review of the PS3 console), and rightfully so. People are bashing Activision for poor ports, annual outings that come right out of the box broken and very little innovation across the software spectrum and the heads at Activision seem to think something is wrong with that. In all honesty, though, if they deserve to be bashed for the aforementioned, then what else is there to praise them for? Seriously?
People see Activision as the new axis of evil when it comes to publishing software, because they are. They quickly replaced EA as the new big bad wolf on the publishing block -- although I must admit EA has quickly hopped on the path of change with a few new innovative IPs and revamped franchises (i.e., Mirror’s Edge, Battlefield Bad Company, Shank, Dead Space, Skate, Bulletstorm, etc.) Activision is now synonymous with a company whose top priority is pumping out as many recognized games as possible, as quickly as possible no matter how mundane, repetitive or unpolished they are. Heck, if they could, I’m sure they’d have Call of Duty games released every six months if they found a way to make it possible. The fact that they bailed on original games like Brutal Legend because there was no way to make a big profit from the franchise, as stated in an interview with Joystiq, and then sued when EA picked up the license just goes to show you what their true business directives are all about.
Now, for those of you who think highly of Activision and believe the company will do a big turnaround, Eric Hirschberg mentioned in the Industry Gamers interview that for the upcoming year…
"[We've] also, on the other hand, done a tremendous amount of support for great games and great developers to the tune of pushing games into the following year and taking the financial hit in the current year because it’s just not great and it’s just not up to our standards yet. Doubling down with the production budget and the financial investment to bring that game up to a standard of excellence that we want to deliver for our fans. There are as many of those stories, if not more, as there are stories of closures and layoffs and things like that,"Well, I guess we’ll see if that’s true and 2011 and 2012 (with the exception of Prototype 2) houses some truly original games or if it’s just a bluff to patch over some fine PR work while they ready for Call of Duty: Resisting A Halo KillZone, Guitar Hero: TV Theme Songs And Movie Soundtrack Redos or Tony Hawk: Tired Kickflip Compilation 2012. Although, I admit, I might be inclined to pick up the Guitar Hero with the TV theme songs.
Nevertheless, when all is said and done Activision may be the ones making the most money from the console genre each year around but they’ll be a prime example in the video game history books of how not to conduct a business if you want to stay reputable in the eyes of the public.