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Activision: "Focus is rewarded" in the videogames business

Even the biggest publisher in the world "can't compete in every genre," says CEO Eric Hirshberg

Activision, despite being the biggest videogames publishing company in the world - with two of the most lucrative properties in its stable in Call of Duty and World of Warcraft - is still unable to be competitive in every genre in the business.

That's according to Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg, who admitted that the company has to maintain a strong focus and constantly re-evaluate its slate - something which has led to a raft of cuts and closures in the publisher's developer roster.

"You have to make some tough decisions sometimes," he said in an interview with IndustryGamers. "Sometimes, really talented people get caught up in those, unfortunately. We have to manage our slate; we have to decide which genres and categories we want to try to compete in."

The company's cuts have affected RedOctane, Bizarre Creations, Radical Entertainment and Neversoft among others, and maintaining a competitive slate is a "tough process," he said.

"We also have to monitor and take a good hard look at the marketplace results and make the right decisions for our business. At the end of the day, even a company the size of Activision can't compete in every genre, and shouldn't.

"Focus is rewarded in this business. The companies who do it the best tend to have their areas where they really shine and make the best games in those areas. There's a constant process of re-evaluating whether or not we have the right slate, whether or not we're making the right games, and then whether or not we have the right people involved with the company, and partners involved with the company to make those games. That's a very tough process to manage."

Hirshberg also referred to the company's current reputation in the business, but doesn't feel that it's justified.

"I have Google, just like everybody else, and I'm of course aware of what the reputation is amongst core gamers, and there's a narrative that I think has taken over reality to a certain extent," he said. "I think there's definitely some disconnect between the perception and the reality."

He went on to liken the anti-Activision sentiments to the rough ride that Sony received following the launch of the PlayStation 3, noting that it took time to "win people's hearts and minds".

"I would love to be a part of closing the gap between perception and reality, and I also like working in an industry that has such an engaged fan base that keeps you honest and keeps you focused on the right things.

"There's no success in this business without delivering for gamers. I invite that; I love that. There was a pretty vocal community of people who commented on the advertising business as well, and I think that's really good for creativity, ultimately, because the values of the people who are the most vocal you might agree or disagree with what they're saying at any particular moment, but I think it's pretty clear that everybody in the core gaming community wants great games."

Activision Blizzard shares closed yesterday at $12.03, trading slightly down on its 52-week high of $12.58, but up solidly on the low of $9.93.

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Phil Elliott