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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Latest comments (9)

JJ Studying Digital Media & Multimedia Technology, London Metropolitan University11 years ago
Activision, I salute you.

Rather than spending the time & money creating multiple games to compete with others in a genre, making a couple of fantastic titles is a better option with more; love, sweat and tears going into the production.

This is true for franchises like: Capcom (fighting and 3rd person Action Adventures), Square Enix (RPGs) and EAs sub divisions (EA Big, EA Sports...).

Mr Miyagi was a great pioneer of "FOCUS", Daniel son headed his advice and appeared in 3 movies and left some people with bruised faces & egos.

Reading this article I have realised Activision do have a great level of Focus as a business, with core article production. This has resulted in the brand being so popular and still making major headway in the industry (they've been around a long time), I'm glad that such a big publisher still makes great games for the love of video games, and they don't roll out numerous games for the sake of soley making money.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by JJ on 16th December 2010 12:07pm

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Phil Elliott Project Lead, Collective; Head of Community (London), Square Enix11 years ago
I sense just a hint of sarcasm here? :-)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Phil Elliott on 16th December 2010 11:56am

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Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart11 years ago
Yes because there are not enough websites and forums already where we can read or contribute tiresome and uneducated anti ATVI rants. Bravo and I hope the studies go well young man.

For the record recent conversations from Kottick and Hirschberg definitely show a concerted effort to improve ATVI (and especially Kottick's) bad reputation. Though in both case it is totally undeserved given he turned a bankrupt business into the best in class video games company worth $14.5bn. Witness the final clarity that CoD will never be a subscription product. Anything that bridges that gulf with gamers is only good and Hirshberg (and avid gamer) is the man to do it.
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Show all comments (9)
JJ Studying Digital Media & Multimedia Technology, London Metropolitan University11 years ago
@ Graham

Great response, it made me think even more about my initial comment with me wanting to retract some of what I said. In my mind when thinking about Activision, I had been thinking of older titles IE Tony Hawks Pro Skater series.

With WoW & CoD (fantastic marketting with the acronyms of the titles - 3 letters), subscription's have been the money makers with software titles IE antivirus, Windows technical support... I have to remember, games are software articles; if you want access, you need to pay. Is WoW the mould of what's to come in video games.

@ Phil

No real intended sarcasm, looking back at the initial comment I made I can see where you're coming from.


Great food for thought, once again my knowledge on video game culture has been increased. As much as I want to be apart of making games; something I'm passionate about, I can't completely rule out the business side of things.

I should definately read up on the business side of studios. The money to make game's comes from somewhere.
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Galen Tucker Owner, Convolution11 years ago
Passion to create is the historical and present root of video game development. Solid business practice is the historical, present, and future of sustained video game development.

The biggest names in video games have forgotten this rule at times. Usually they paid dearly. Atari owned video games, then forgot they had to satisfy their customers quality expectations. They buried more than disgarded cartridges that year.

Activision/Blizzard makes business decisions with the best information they have at the time. Like the rest of us. Only time will tell if these decisions were good. Video game enthusiasts and journalists will debate whether they were the best decisions... forever.



[edit]I really need spell check when I post :) [/edit]

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Galen Tucker on 16th December 2010 5:40pm

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Joel Eckert Game Designer, Red Indigo11 years ago
Well one thing is true here, Focus is rewarded greatly in this industry. All studios have to find what their team does GREAT at, and start pushing their games in that direction. If the teams passion is there, then a great product should not be too far behind.

Perhaps thats why WOW and CoD are so successful, I have to hand it to ActiBlizz for that, their teams know what they are great at.
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Jelle Schut Managing Director, Only Network11 years ago
Don't fully agree with that. Bizarre Creations is great at making racing games, but still Blur underperformed significantly.

To me, this statement sounds like developers suffer when the market research/marketing guys fail at judging the market, fixing the release window or set up a poor marketing plan. Or at least, with Blur it was definitely not the game.
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Aurélien Dussalve11 years ago
@Schut: I'd like to comment on your example. I think we can't compare MSR's and PGR's quality to Blur's. Even though it's not the same category, Blur lacked that "bizarre touch" (can't explain exactly what it is). Nevertheless, I (and those who bought it) surely had a great time with this game. But mostly, taking into account the overcrowded market where gamers can't buy all the games they want, marketing was definitely the key issue (as it was explained in a previous article... but can't find that bloody link :\...)

Just my 2 ct

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Aurélien Dussalve on 16th December 2010 7:39pm

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Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart11 years ago
The problem with Blur is that it was not strong enough to be a sustainable and profitable franchise. Granted it was fun but when NFS Hot Pursuit came out it became even more clear it was the weaker product. EA/Sony own the racing game franchises and if you are going to compete with them you have to have a strong franchise. ATVI tried and failed. Blur was not a competitor (really how many iterations of it do you think they could have subsequently released?. So it was canned (sadly for the studio - but that's the cruelty of business).
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