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Kotick: EA Is Suffocating Studios

Pooya

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Aug 12, 2009
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EDGE
From an interview on latest issue of EDGE
On EA
Activision CEO thinks studio autonomy is essential to successful publishing, and that EA has failed to realise this.

Activision Blizzard CEO, Bobby Kotick, believes that the publisher's success is due to allowing studios to retain their autonomy and personalities, rather than creating internal studios like EA. Speaking during an exclusive interview in issue 220 of Edge (available from UK newsagents tomorrow), Kotick says that EA is struggling to attract the best people due to unattractive working practices.

"The core principle of how we run the company is the exact opposite of EA," he says. "EA will buy a developer and then it will become ‘EA Florida’, ‘EA Vancouver’, ‘EA New Jersey’, whatever. We always looked and said, 'You know what? What we like about a developer is that they have a culture, they have an independent vision and that’s what makes them so successful.' We don’t have an Activision anything - it’s Treyarch, Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer.

"That, to me, is one of the unassailable rules of building a publishing company. And in every case except for two, the original founders of the studios are still running the studios today. The only thing that we try to do is to provide a support structure to make them more successful. If you do a really good job - and a lot of our studios do - you get to pick what is, in my view, the most difficult thing to pick in the industry: to make original intellectual property."

Asked whether he thought that allowing so much autonomy resulted in additional risk, Kotick feels that Activision is confident in the abilities of its studios and that the strategy poses no risk at all.

"Virtually all of our studio heads are serious, responsible people," he explains. "They want to make great games, they want to do it the right way, and I think one of the benefits we have [with] being a big company is that we don’t have the same pressures of, 'Oh, we have to have it out for this particular quarter.' There’s not a studio at this company that will tell you: 'Activision is forcing us to get the game out.'

"We get in business with people who are responsible, they’re creative, they want to make great games. The incentive schemes that we’ve devised all reward success. But there’s not anything that is a 'Hey, you have to get the game out on Thursday.'"

Though EA is coming round to Activision's approach with its 'city state' structure, Kotick believes that the publisher is underestimating its ability to change.

"The thing is, it doesn’t work that way - you can’t be a floor wax and then decide that you’re going to become a dessert topping," he says. "That doesn’t work, it’s your DNA. [EA’s] DNA isn’t oriented towards that model - it doesn’t know how to do it, as a culture or as a company, and it never has... Look, EA has a lot of resources, it’s a big company that’s been in business for a long time, maybe it’ll figure it out eventually. But it’s been struggling for a really long time. The most difficult challenge it faces today is: great people don’t really want to work there.

"It’s like, if you have no other option, you might consider them. They have some… the team that makes Madden is a really great team, it’s been able to manage, capture and keep some good people. But we have no shortage of opportunity to recruit out of EA – that’s their biggest challenge: its stock options have no value. It’s lost its way. And until it has success, and hits, and gets that enthusiasm back for the company, it’s going to have a struggle getting really talented people, which is going to translate into less-than-great games."

On Respawn

CVG
Activision boss, Bobby Kotick has claimed that fired Infinity Ward founders, Jason West and Vince Zampella will "have a really hard time ever being productive or successful ever again."

That's what he told Edge magazine in its latest issue, which includes a massive exclusive interview with the outspoken Activision head.

In it, Kotick spreads light on the bitter departure of the ex-Infinity Ward bosses - who've now formed a studio with EA - telling the mag he feels "betrayed".

"It shook my belief in two specific people, who were my friends," he said. "The frustrating thing about that is, the stuff that these guys did, I never would have expected them to do. We're a public company, we've got ethics obligations, and the things they did were... I would go to jail if I did them.

"You can't use the company and the company's assets for your own personal benefit, and you can't use the leverage that you might have for personal benefit - you're not allowed to do that! And so we didn't have any choice."

Kotick said Activision "knew what the consequences would be," when West and Zampella departed, because most of the core Infinity Ward staff were all close friends.

"When we bought the company, they were 20 or 30 guys - these were guys that shared vacation homes together, they were all best friends, they were at each other's weddings. We knew that when we had to fire Jason and Vince we were going to lose a lot of really talented people," Kotick added.


"That's one of those really difficult decisions as the CEO of a company, where you step back and say, 'No good is going to come of this. They're going to leave and probably have a really hard time ever being productive or successful ever again, and we're going to lose some talented people, and there's nothing we can do about it.' And there wasn't."

Kotick went on to claim he's received "something like 5,000 resumes" for the empty Infinity Ward positions.

Tim Schafer
Eurogamer
"I've never met him in my life – I've never had anything to do with him. I never had any involvement in the Vivendi project that they were doing, Brütal Legend, other than I was in one meeting where the guys looked at it and said, 'He's late, he's missed every milestone, he's overspent the budget and it doesn't seem like a good game. We're going to cancel it.'

"And do you know what? That seemed like a sensible thing to do. And it turns out, he was late, he missed every milestone, the game was not a particularly good game..."

Kotick also insisted his infamous "taking the fun out of videogame development" quote was just a quip.

"That was a joke! The fact that there are people – and it's a small vocal minority – that actually think that I meant it... How do you combat that?"

He added: "This is my dream job. I've been playing games since I was 18 years old. I could have bought any company, but I bought a bankrupt game company, and I've been doing it for 21 years. This idea that I'm not passionate about videogames is ludicrous. But you say something and it gets taken out of context."

More from this interview here,
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick impressed by Kinect and Move, but reveals the publisher is working on new bespoke peripherals.
 

Cosmonaut X

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Seriously? After the (ongoing) shitstorm with IW, he comes out with this?

I mean, his criticisms of EA are pretty well-founded, but this does look like a case of Mr Pot laying into Mr Kettle...
 

SolidSnakex

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There's a lot more there going by other sites. He apparently goes off on Schafer about the whole Brutal Legend issue and Vince and Jason for screwing him over.
 

Sho_Nuff82

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So, does Neversoft have a choice in making annual Guitar Hero games? Can Treyarch employees decide tomorrow that they're not working on odd-numbered Call of Duty games any longer? Didn't they try to strong-arm Schaefer into making Brutal Legend a rhythm game? Weren't the heads of Infinity Ward sacked for insubordination, with the claim that they were actively trying to work for EA?

I don't think this man understands what autonomy means.
 

Scuba Steve

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jufonuk

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Jim.
'You know what? What we like about a developer is that they have a culture, they have an independent vision and that’s what makes them so successful.' We don’t have an Activision anything - it’s Treyarch, Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer."

lol ok Kotick, if you say so!
 

V_Ben

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May 8, 2009
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SolidSnakex said:
There's a lot more there going by other sites. He apparently goes off on Schafer and Vince and Jason for screwing him over.
Wow, I have to see those comments. Got a link?
 

Galvanise_

Formerly 'LordAsriel'
Jan 2, 2009
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Britania rules the waves.
SolidSnakex said:
There's a lot more there going by other sites. He apparently goes off on Schafer about the whole Brutal Legend issue and Vince and Jason for screwing him over.

Yeah, he said that Activision have 'ethics' and that if he did what Vince and Jason did he'd be in Jail etc.
 

Fersis

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Apr 21, 2008
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Kotick is the Astrolad of the games industry.

<3 Astrolad <3
 

subversus

I've done nothing with my life except eat and fap
Oct 26, 2009
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SolidSnakex said:
There's a lot more there going by other sites. He apparently goes off on Schafer about the whole Brutal Legend issue and Vince and Jason for screwing him over.

well, he hit the spot about Schafer.
 

Galvanise_

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He mentions that Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer aren't suffocated because they have their own names and development culture. . . .but he forgets that his company has bitchslapped them into developing COD titles.

He also forgets that EA's new IP have been interesting and diverse. Dead Space, Dante's inferno, Mirrors Edge etc and the EA sports range has improved.
 

zerokoolpsx

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Kotick giving advice. Laughable.
Galvanise_ said:
He mentions that Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer aren't suffocated because they have their own names and development culture. . . .but he forgets that his company has bitchslapped them into developing COD titles.
More like pigeonholed. I wonder, do they get bored of making fps yet? That franchise alone makes them billions.
 

SolidSnakex

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Galvanise_ said:
He mentions that Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer aren't suffocated because they have their own names and development culture. . . .but he forgets that his company has bitchslapped them into developing COD titles.

Yeah, before they were fired, Vince and Jason mentioned all the shit that they had to go through with Activision and CoD. They didn't want to make CoD2 a WW2 game but Activision wanted them to. But IW wanted to make console games also so in order to do that they decided to make CoD2 a WW2 game which allowed them to develop on consoles. They also had to fight to make Modern Warfare because Activision had done research that told them that gamers didn't want a modern shooter.
 

Haunted

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Blurb in the thread title is correct (although he is lying about their own practices - Activision is even worse in that regard), but that's why EA has their brilliant Partners program set up.

Dave DeMartini :bow
 

szaromir

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Galvanise_ said:
He mentions that Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer aren't suffocated because they have their own names and development culture. . . .but he forgets that his company has bitchslapped them into developing COD titles.

He also forgets that EA's new IP have been interesting and diverse. Dead Space, Dante's inferno, Mirrors Edge etc and the EA sports range has improved.
Now you should add Raven to that list as well, also involved in COD.
 
Nov 17, 2006
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Koga, Ibaraki, Japan
Urban Scholar said:
"The most difficult challenge it faces today is: great people don’t really want to work there. "

Honestly games like Locke's Quest & Henry Hatsworth leads me to be believe otherwise in response to the aforementioned quote.
Uh... Lock's Quest is developed by 5th Cell and published by THQ, and the Henry Hatsworth team left EA after finishing that game.
 

Busty

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Aug 26, 2006
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In it, Kotick spreads light on the bitter departure of the ex-Infinity Ward bosses - who've now formed a studio with EA - telling the mag he feels "betrayed".

Betrayed? Pfft. I will eat my fucking hat and the coat that came with it if Kotick knew either of their names before this shit blew up.
 

markot

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Aug 21, 2008
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Do great people want to work at Activision?

I mean, IW was gutted, the GH devs arent around anymore are they? I bet even blizz keeps some garlic around for when Kotick is about.
 
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Kotick went on to claim he's received "something like 5,000 resumes" for the empty Infinity Ward positions.

You can walk into any business that's hiring in this economy and they'll tell you they've received hundreds of applications.
 

The Bookerman

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Isn't EA renaming their studios with new and original Names ? Visceral and Danger Close games are exemples of that. Since 2008, EA at least tried to create new brands like Mirror's edge and Dead space. What about Activision. Same shit year after year: Guitar Hero scu's, Tony Hawk, Call of duty, spiderman. That's it. That's all Activision releases.
 

Foorbits

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markot said:
Do great people want to work at Activision?

Well they have Blizzard and Bungie... and Bungie chose Activision out of everyone to work with.

I know we all love to hate the devil that is Kotick but maybe he has a point.