Activision studios deny "heavy-handed" corporate atmosphere

Raven, Vicarious Visions and High Moon support parent company's approach to developers

Representatives from three of Activision's development studios have denied that their parent publisher is "heavy-handed" in its dealings with them, and supported its approach to the way the business is structured.

In a session at PAX East, entitled "Owned but Independent", host Dan Amrich - formerly a journalist but currently social media manager at Activision - quizzed senior figures from Raven Software, Vicarious Visions and High Moon Studios about the atmosphere, and their relationships with the publisher.

Jennifer O'Neal, executive producer at Vicarious Visions, noted that life as part of Activision was less risky "of a position than when we were independent," as reported by Gamasutra, adding that her company was free to spend budget as it saw fit - including some areas that an indie would find difficult to justify, such as motion capture.

Meanwhile Eric Biessman, senior project lead at Raven, noted that the studio's current owner was less controlling than previous publishing clients had been, recalling: "If we didn't turn in a milestone every month that wasn't exactly what was listed in our contract they wouldn't pay us."

And Peter Della Penna, head of High Moon, talked up the studio culture as "key" to the relationship, adding that the studio wasn't forced to work on projects it didn't feel were suitable - and that compared with external license-holders, Activision's approach was "structured, but not heavy-handed".

Amrich had prefaced the session by explaining his desire to overturn the prevailing notion that Activision's studios were stifled by corporate management - an impression he admitted to having before joining the firm.

Vicarious Visions has recently been responsible for the Wii version of Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, while Raven Software released FPS title Singularity last year. High Moon's most recent title was Transformers: War for Cybertron.

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Latest comments (9)

Paul Smith Dev 7 years ago
So a guy from Activision questioned heads of Activision owned studio's in a public forum and they all said good things....

sounds legit!
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Gordon Rennie writer 7 years ago
In other news today, people on the streets of Tripoli said - when interviewed by members of the security forces - that they were extremely happy with the Gaddafi government's record in office, and were delighted to give it their full and continued support.

More on this surprise story, as it comes in...
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Ian Monaghan senior producer, Black Rock Studio7 years ago
Gordon, that made me laugh out loud.
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Show all comments (9)
Tommy Thompson Studying Artificial Intelligence (PhD), University of Strathclyde7 years ago
Perhaps they should also sit down with the former heads of Shaba, Red Octane, Bizarre & Infinity Ward and ask them to compare notes?
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Doug Kennedy President, Reverb Communications7 years ago
Does anyone remember the clips of the US soldiers being put on camera during the Vietnam war talking about how much they loved the Vietnamese and the communist movement and how the US was a horrible country…. The similarities are pretty funny. Prisoners will say the funniest things when a gun is pointed a them.

Activision is run by a dictator, who, if challenged will march you into the street, call a press conference and then publically execute you. Bobby and team are the best at building brands up, beating the hell at of the brands and then putting them to pasture, and if anything gets in their way expect a lawsuit or an execution. These studio heads don’t like working for Activision, their just too scared to say otherwise, if they do, no more milestones and no more money…

Very sad.
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John Donnelly Quality Assurance 7 years ago
Tommy you missed a few.

Also Bizzare did not blame Activision for their downfall, they could have slated them after the news the studio was closing but they did not which speaks volumes.

Some of the publisher bashing that goes on here is shocking some days.
Activision employes a huge pool of tallent and while they have cut a large number of jobs in the last 14 months its not the first publisher to do so.

Its been said before that studios are given a level of freedom even while owned by Activision so why are you all doubting this is true?
Is it a little PR, sure but given the nature of past statements and other talk from between the lines there is truth to whats being said.
There is also truth to how ruthless Activision can be, you only have to look at the events of the last 14 months with the studios being closed and the lawsuits but still there is alot we dont know from either side in those cases.
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Ken Rosman7 years ago
Activision is a public business, that means they have bosses too. Shareholders and Wall Street, they demand growth and performance. The industry is in bad shape, yes studios were closed that isn't all activisions fault. I work at one of the owned studios, we do run mostly independent. Blame used games and consumers desire for free/low cost content
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Gregory Hommel writer 7 years ago
Gordon you made me go pee-pee a little because that's just what I was thinking. Besides, these studios' games weren't exactly blockbusters. Despite Activision's reputation as being "heavy handed", they would find nothing but success if they were dedicated to quality, polish and advancing the technology of games. When the business model is all about dollars with no room for passion and pushing the current tech, you can't be as big as Activision thinks it is. They are watching the bottom line as a sign of success or failure, but I can tell you that their time is almost up.
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Paul Cardy Programmer, Rebellion7 years ago
Ken: I think without the used games market the current price of boxed games would quickly become unsustainable.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Cardy on 15th March 2011 8:47am

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