Activision: Gamers, not the economy, have shaped IP

CEO says that title focus is a reflection of people playing fewer games, more often

Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg has claimed that gamers are more responsible than the economy for the winnowing of publisher IP, reflecting that they are playing less games, in far more depth than they used to.

An increasing install base and more time spent on gaming show a growing market, Hirshberg explained, whilst deeper worlds and almost endless online replay potential mean that games now have a much longer tail than previously.

"Gamers seem to want to spend more time on, and go deeper into, fewer games," the CEO told as part of a larger interview. "They're gaming more - all of the metrics in terms of number of uniques, number of hours spent, all those are up. Hardware install base is up.

It's hard to argue that economic turbulence is the driver, because people are still buying new Xboxes and PS3s at a record clip.

Eric Hirshberg, Activision

"If you look at all the graphs, it's hard to argue that economic turbulence is the driver, because people are still buying new Xboxes and PS3s at a record clip. We get 20 million unique Call of Duty players every month. The shift is that the games have gotten deeper, and as we've seen this shift to online connected play, the tail on games is a lot longer than it used to be."

Part of the reason for that is the ability to keep adding content to existing games with DLC and online options, Hirshberg feels, keeping players engaged in single universes much longer than was previously possible.

"I think that, as much as anything else, has decreased the demand for new IP," the CEO continued. "Just a few years back, when there wasn't that long tail of connected play, you'd buy a game, roll through the campaign, roll through the various play modes. Maybe you'd do it again, but then you'd be done with it. There'd be very few games, maybe the sports games would be the exception, like the Maddens and the FIFAs, where you'd just continue to play them all year round.

"But now you're seeing that more and more with these DLC strategies and a lot more connected play. This is something we're learning from gamers. Just because it's part of an existing franchise, doesn't mean it's not innovative, doesn't mean we're not bringing new ideas."

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Latest comments (15)

James Prendergast Research Chemist 8 years ago
"Just a few years back, when there wasn't that long tail of connected play, you'd buy a game, roll through the campaign, roll through the various play modes. Maybe you'd do it again, but then you'd be done with it. There'd be very few games, maybe the sports games would be the exception, like the Maddens and the FIFAs, where you'd just continue to play them all year round."

Obviously speaking just about the console space....

I have to admit that whilst i'm not disagreeing with his general thesis, I'm not seeing these new connected play experiences being any different to how they were 10 years ago on the PC or even since the original Xbox live... DLC, yeah that's a little different but still either too slow or niche.
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Tommy Thompson Studying Artificial Intelligence (PhD), University of Strathclyde8 years ago
In short:

"The next time you complain about CoD domination, remember you only have yourselves to blame."

I do think that the connected experience has changed. As many a time as a child one would become engrossed in a particular game to find the intricacies and secrets. Perhaps this is rose tinted nostalgia but this is seldom the case anymore.

I think the two differences are the boom in online (both in terms of gaming and models) as well as the increase in disposable income. More people play and are willing to spend money on games. The idea of buying only one game every couple of months and playing as a completist is no longer valid. Online gaming shifted the interest from completion to continued improvement & replay value via DLC and playing with friends etc. Though regardless of the model, if you keep buying them, they will continue to make more. Note that this is not a slight against CoD. Merely a reflection of franchises and the way in which both consumers and the market respond - speaking as a Modern Warfare/Battlefield/Assassins Creed/Gears of War consumer.
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Christian Philippe Guay Technical Game Designer, Gameloft Montreal8 years ago
In my opinion, I think Activision is terribly late on that realization. I believe it actually never changed, gamers always preferred to spend time on one game that is worth their investment and time.

The only reason why a gamer would feel the need to play another game is because he isn't fully satisfied. It means he might feel the need to play another genre, otherwise he might play different FPS games to satisfy different aspect of his playstyle, which means... most games released on the current generation actually lacked a lot of depth. So it is obvious that gamers during the past years moved from one game to another.

Because the industry doesn't yet follow the new standards, players have to jump from one crappy product to another to satisfy their needs. One got the control, the other the pacing, etc.

Activision is just to blind to see that the real problem is within the industry, how we make games and why.
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Show all comments (15)
Bernard Parker Studying game design, Full Sail University8 years ago
I think developers and publishers have shaped IP! Not that that's a bad thing, I mean its a lot cheaper for Developers to extend the life of an established IP via sequels and DLC than to create new ones from scratch. Gamers are just enjoying the ride. IMO...
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James Ingrams Writer 8 years ago
It's gamers faults? We demanded DLC did we? I thought we were happy with an expansion 6 months down the road! Come to think of it, on PC, did gamers demand games go from big box with big manual and map, to DVD cases and 14 page manual with a 30 page PDF manual on the disk?

I think publishers have been sussed out. It's the Oblivion's and Fallout's and STALKER's that now sell, because they offer the best gaming for your dollar. In a recession, that's very important

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Taylan Kay Game Designer / Programmer / Marketer 8 years ago
Well, gamers exist within the economy too, I would like to humbly point out, not in a vacuum (that would be painful for gamers). If you don't have the money to shell out for something new, you might as well keep playing CoD over and over again. And since the single player campaign has only so much replay value (usually none), online play is the natural choice.

As for people still buying PS3s and XBoxs, it is not a comparable investment to buying games. An Xbox (which only costs as much as 5 games or even less) has a much longer life cycle and more varied functionality than the average Activision game, not to mention you need a console to be able to play any console game in the first place.

I don't think their analysis is a very deep one. I suspect it's case of them seeing what they want to see. Personally I think it's more about consumers taking fewer risks with crappy, unfinished games and poorly executed IPs. Otherwise I haven't met a single gamer in my life who would not be excited by a new IP.
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Rex Mcnish Environment Artist 8 years ago
Gamers are much more willing to try a new IP when it is priced fair. $15 indie game? If it looks fun, I will purchase it. Of course, even indie games (Minecraft for example) are adopting the ability to allow gamers to play the game however they want without an 'ending', and even Minecraft has comprehensive online modes.

It does seem like Activision is late in this realization (as always)... gamers have known this about themselves and their peers for as long as video games have been out.

It isn't even about just being a gamer. This is all about trying to be a smarter consumer as you try to get the maximum value for your money. Game with an 8 hour SP only, and no MP for $60...? A rent. However, if it has MP, then that price seems more justified provided it fits with that person's preferences, otherwise they might opt for an open-world single player experience like GTA IV or Fallout 3.
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Ashley Gutierrez Animator 8 years ago
This sounds like he's trying to come up with a reason to cater to non-core gamers.
I haven't forgotten all the crap you've pulled Activision, and neither has anyone else.
Don't try and sound like you're thinking about us in the long run.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ashley Gutierrez on 30th August 2011 6:58pm

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Brett Rector Producer, LucasArts8 years ago
I disagree that there is a "decreased" demand for new IP. Companies need to create good IP that will keep gamers engaged.

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Daniel Brown Information Manager 8 years ago
I like how they seem to ignore the fact that game prices are in general just too expensive. This in my opinion is probably one of the better reasons as to why people are spending more time on fewer games. So many genres are becoming saturated, I don't blame people to spend more time on games. Hell, why would I buy a game that may only offer me 10 hours or so when I can get a game that can provide over 40? I'm seeing a lot of games going from 60$ to 70$, and that's before taxes so what's going to be the prices of games 10 years down the road?
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
More people become gamers, shifting the average statistics inevitably down to more average numbers and away from "I own 50 games per console". At the same time, we now have an entire genre of games designed specifically to suck up 100% of their players' time, bringing the statistic down from the other end. The average age of gamers is rising and as the early gaming generations grow older they have less time for games, dragging down every average number.

Those are but three reasons for the average number of games per players heading down. If people play the game in more depth has also to be questioned ruthlessly. I am not sure a higher percentage of people really complete games, than compared to 10 years ago. People playing games in greater depth seems to relate more to people often only playing one game. Only Farmville, only WoW, only CoD, etc.

Meanwhile Hollywood seems to disagree on the "no need for new IP" argument. Look at the best grossing movie list in the mid-90ies and then look at it now. Most of the Top10 was replaced by new IP. Heavily serialized IP, yes, but the best grossing movies are not remakes from the 60ies, they are new IPs. Jurassic Park, Independence Day, ET, used to be the best grossing movies of all time. They were not replaced by their sequels, they were replaced by new and even bigger IP. Titanic was not unseated by Titanic 2. Call of Duty might be a reliable work horse, as is Harry Potter 8, or Pirates 5, or Toy Story 4, but in the end a new IP will come along and show people how silly it really was, delivering the IP to the great dustbin. There it can meet, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes and all the other forgotten IPs of Hollywood. Not bad IPs, just not good enough anymore.

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Of course, if you can only afford ONE game and it happens to be a CoD, Halo, Madden or whatever, that's what you'll play because you have no choice (or more money to expand that game library).

Also, can we all stop bashing "casual" gamers just to put an end to the "debate" about whether or not those folks are "true" gamers? Shit, no matter if you're addicted to Diner Dash, Donkey Kong, Starcraft II or CoD, you're a gamer, PERIOD if you enjoy what you play. A GOOD time management game is as fast-paced and addictive as any RTS (as I found out after reluctantly trying a few and being surprised at the similarities in gameplay). Granted, you don't get head shots or explosions every 1.6 seconds, but the adrenaline level boost is exactly the same, as is the sense of satisfaction when clearing a stage.

In the end, you might hate those stupid Zynga games, endless apps copying other apps and other casual crap and that's fine. But hell, you're not forced to buy them, and some of these users actually end up expanding their horizons into "core" titles when they get tired of stroking and swiping a screen on the subway to and from work.
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Green Bean Gaming AntiCheat Organization 8 years ago
gamers squeeze more out of few games because of price, and saturation (which game to choose). They would be more likely to buy a new title if it related in some serious way to the game they love now (like upgraded favorite maps, story line, adoption of favorite mods, etc.). Medal of Honor Allied Assault or Call of Duty 2 are examples of just how people have not moved on. Easing the transition for that percentage of the population 'that would rather stay secured to their known game' would have a wonderful impact on current games with a greater influx of players, not withstanding computer spec requirements.
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Jeremy Choo Indie Developer 8 years ago
So they're saying games nowadays have better replay value because of DLC ( and that's exactly what players want ) ?

That's highly inaccurate. Starcraft1 only need 1 expo pack and it plays for MANY years(12 years in this case). So does Diablo2. So does red alert series. So does Master of Magic , So does XCOM series.

My summary : Games nowadays lack depth both from multiplayer and singleplayer; and they HEAVILY relies on DLC because that's the model Publishers have pushed for to replace the old ( and more expensive ) throwaway model.

In other words inside the publishers' book it is:
DLC Model > Throwaway Model > 'Games-with-actual-Depth-that's-good-for-12-years' Model

So that's that. Be honest with the real situation. There is NO 'DLC strategies'. The only DLC strategy is making game with almost 0 replay value so much so that without DLC; the expires before you can finish pronouncing the Vision behind the Acti.

Publisher pushed the DLC model years ago , make them tasty ( for today's choice ) , and gamers ate it.
They said years ago people, install , play and uninstall. Yes and No. Few years ago yes, that's because that's what the publisher have driven it ( and the booming of indie development; ppl trying out small titles ). More than 10 years ago, NO. I never uninstall my starcraft for a good 5-6 years. They have no DLC. Only 1 expo.

Sorry for the very charged up comment. But it's from the very bottom of my heart. The sadness to see most games today are going further from games that have actual design depth.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Jeremy - you're right, so don't worry. Hell, i still have Diablo II installed on my PC, have never touched battlenet and I go back to it at least once a year. Looks as if I'll be doing that when DIII is released, as I have zero intention of playing SP while online.
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