Editorial: Gamers Sour On Activision
There comes a point when a major corporation eventually rubs their customers the wrong way; it's almost inevitable, especially if that corporation is ambitious, motivated, and fully capable of continually trouncing the competition. It seems Activision, while arguably the world's largest video game publisher (depending on which numbers you examine), has sorta "topped out" and is currently on the downhill portion of the reputation roller-coaster.
There's little doubt that Activision has delivered some fine gaming experiences this generation, and to say they haven't is to insult a great many consumers who have enjoyed games like those that are within the stellar Call of Duty franchise. And really, CoD is just the tip of the iceberg (Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk, anyone?), so Activision has been raking it in lately. They should continue to do so this holiday season, 'cuz we all know what titles will be hitting store shelves for the big consumer rush. However, all this being said, Activision has been getting on many a gamer's nerves lately, and it started with that threat PlayStation 3 owners remember well. Oh yeah, you remember it...
So CEO Bobby Kotick said Activision might have to stop supporting the PS3 if Sony didn't drop the price of the machine. Now, this price drop will invariably happen soon enough, but that's not the point; the point is that Activision simply wanted to apply pressure. They wanted the PS3 to be as cheap as possible for obvious reasons, but every last analyst and journalist out there knew it was nothing but an empty threat. There's no way on earth Activision ignores 24 million potential buyers of their products, and all they did is succeed in ticking off a lot of PS3 owners. But they didn't stop there. A few days ago, Kotick incited another mini riot when he said that he'd "make game prices higher if he could." While we're certain there is some merit to this statement, it's not the kind of thing people want to hear.
As is, many people already think the price of games is a bit too high (we don't agree; not when you factor in how many hours of entertainment you receive for the price, but whatever). Then, if you consider the extra high cost of the many bundles Activision has prepared for the next few months, people become even more incensed. You've got plenty of Guitar Hero spin-offs, a ridiculous Prestige Edition for Modern Warfare 2, plus other music-based bundle packages like DJ Hero; none of which are going to be cheap. Activision has been able to dominate the market with the franchises in question, and those games have been excellent. They really have. There's no way in hell Activision attains this lofty position in the industry unless they gave gamers stuff they wanted. Does anyone honestly think that millions of fans are just buying the games because they like Activision, the company? Come on.
They often have great stuff. And of course, they know how to promote it (maybe Sony should take some lessons). But as of now, it's my suggestion to Activision and CEO Kotick to lighten up a bit on this holier-than-thou approach. We appreciate the ambition and dedication; we really do. We know business is always a competition and if you relent for even a split second, you could lose your edge. I accept all of this. However, at the same time, reputation does play a role and at this point, Activision is taking a tongue-lashing from many gamers around the Internet; just take a look around if you're skeptical. This reminds me of the widespread chastisement of Square-Enix in the past few years, but this is different; Activision brought this on themselves in the span of only a few months. Seriously, guys...your approval rating is kinda low right now.
You may want to do something to bring that up before the holidays are upon us. Or maybe you just don't care...?
8/7/2009 Ben Dutka