It's Hip To Hate On Activision, But Is The Hate Justified?
Figured we'd come back with something very discussion-worthy. ;)
As you can see by our poll, we've been thinking about Activision and how they're so often in the news for - seemingly - all the wrong reasons. Over the past few years, they've managed to generate an immense amount of income...along with a very vocal and continually growing group of gamers and journalists who aren't the biggest fans of the publisher's business practices. And as you can see by the poll results so far, nearly half those who responded said they'd at least try to avoid buying Activision games while more than a quarter say they absolutely won't purchase anything with an Activision label. But sometimes, it's our job to step back and look at something objectively, with no biases or personal judgments. In so doing, we have to look at exactly why the publisher is frequently seen in a negative light.
CEO Bobby Kotick has come under fire for many comments that rubbed gamers the wrong way, including the one about how he'd "make games cost $100" if he had his way. Considering the state of the economy at the time - not to mention that the cost of games is always a hot issue in the industry - this was clearly a bad idea. And in regards to his other questionable statements, many can be attributed to classic foot-in-mouth syndrome. But as usual, a set of maybe three or four comments in the past year manages to outstrip anything else the man has said, and he has given his fair share of interviews. If you actually read those interviews, you might be surprised at how much you agree with; you might even respect a few of those comments. It's probably fair to say he's a businessman first and a friend to gamers second but if one wishes to successfully run a multi-billion-dollar business, this is probably essential.
As for the company itself, they've gotten the reputation of being money-grubbing faceless executives who really don't care how much pain they inflict on a wallet. Some have complained at the cost of Call of Duty expansion packs (in direct relation to what you actually get in those packs), and the recent snafu over a possible pay-to-play model - quickly debunked, though - hasn't helped. The Infinity Ward blowup probably reigns supreme on the list of "reasons why we hate Activision" but in that respect, not quite so fast: there will always be a widespread feeling of sympathy when the "little guy" appears to be on the receiving end of abuse and oppression by the "big fish." It was easy to label Activision the aggressor and in the position of, "we have more money than you, so we're going to take what we want." But let's not forget that neither of IW's bosses, Vince Zampella and Jason West, have what you would call squeaky clean pasts...
Lastly, and this is only from my personal standpoint: lawsuits cost company's money and if you think a massive lawsuit like the one that faces Activision doesn't bother them, think again. There's no way on earth they spend a giant chunk of cash on a bazillion lawyers and risk going to court if they believe they have no case; if they were clearly in the wrong, it's very likely they would've quietly paid off the duo and the rest of Infinity Ward and been done with it. But it seems they honestly believe they're in the right, as all their statements to the press have indicated, and they intend to fight it to the bitter end. This is not the behavior of a company whose higher-ups are going, "okay, they got us. Let's just make this go away."
In the end, I do believe Activision is guilty of creating a gulf between them and gamers, but I also believe the headline-hungry press and universal empathy for the "little guy" and common distrust of huge corporations have contributed to Activision's current reputation. And I think this is an accurate assessment. This being said, I think there are steps Activision can take to mend the rift; the question is whether or not they will do so. Granted, it's not all their fault but they could make some sort of public concession and give us gamers a significant gift of some kind...just a thought.
8/4/2010 3:45:59 PM Ben Dutka