Power corrupts

 And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It seems the burden of success can often drive an individual to do irrational and unimaginable things.



Animal Farm is a classic allegory of such a twisted fate. Exploring the Russian revolution, from its early romantic infancy of deposing the tsar and his ill treatment of the Russian people to the new world order where all citizens are equal. Sadly, it would transpire into a dictatorship and as Stalin would have it, leave a mark in the pages of history penned with the blood of innocent lives.

It seems a new world power has risen in the guise of Activision. It’s steady rise to become the words biggest third party developer must be commended especially in such a cutthroat environment. But what kind of legacy will Activision leave behind? Like all great empires, it never lasts forever. It’s cyclical and much like the economy, where there is boom there will be bust.

 Therefore, during the reign as the world’s biggest developer, I watch with abated breath to see what impact Activision will have on the gaming world. Tragically, it seems Activision’s time at the top is reflecting more of an image of a despotic leader, as opposed to an all-inclusive-Jesus-like prophet.

Around 18 months ago, the world froze as the biggest economic downturn hit the world stage. Banks had no money, lending froze and all of a sudden, stock values dropped, cut backs rolled in and the rest, well…we’re currently living it.

Therefore, during this time of leanness, it was unsurprising when Activision decided to take a more business minded approach and drop its investments in games such as Ghostbusters, The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena and Brutal Legend.

Great business accruement was proven when they posted their earnings for their fiscal 2008 report and as Mr Kotick was quoted in IGN’s article by Greg Miller (May 8/08), “ffiscal 2008 was the best year in our history and Q4 was the largest and most profitable non-holiday quarter, even though we did not release any new titles,”

But then Activision started to change. As the company and Mr Kotick gleefully rode on the wave of success, they started to become irrational. Law suits was made against EA to stop its release of Brutal Legends, claiming it still owned the rights to distribution despite dropping the IP because their cost/benefit analysis showed that figures didn’t add up.

Then there was the wild remark of forcing Sony’s hand to reduce its console price.  As a consumer, it seemed his remark was somewhat reasonable as other developers also voiced their concern over the high cost of development.

It wasn’t until recently that I began to doubt Activisions intentions to provide gamers with good value entertainment. Their decision to raise the recommended retail price of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has made me ask questions.

Eurogamer’s interview with analyst Mr Michael Pachter, Wedbush Morgan Securities implied that the choice to raise the rrp for the franchise was more to do with tiered pricing. As stated in the article, the effect it can have on the pricing of games is dramatic “If there is no consumer backlash, I think we may see higher pricing on other games, regardless of the GBP/USD translation rate”.

The irony lies in the fact that Activision requests other companies to lower their price whilst they themselves take the action to raise the price of their own goods because they believe it’s “hot property”.

What’s even more disconcerting is their attitude to other developers, as indicated with their intended lawsuit against EA and Double Fine.

The ultimate kick in the teeth is the indirect language they are using with the consumer – I can’t help but feel patronized when they say MW2 is worth the extra dollars just because its part of the Call of Duty Franchise. For the extra dollars, what extra or new game experience am I paying for?

This continual treatment of the consumer as mere drones extends further. Their intended release of Tony Hawk Ride will force the hand of the consumer to invest in peripherals. Unlike Nintendo, who’s peripherals at least have some cross software application, I can’t really see Tony Hawks skateboard peripheral being applied to other games. Ultimately, if the developers of Skate 2 can create an immersive skateboarding game without peripherals, surely the world’s biggest developer can come up with an answer that is not gimmicky?

Rumor in the gaming news world also stated the possibility of Activision producing a specific game controller for COD:MW2. What’s wrong with using the current controllers? Will the future be one game one peripheral? I hope not, I’m having enough problems dealing with the button layout for different FPS games.

What saddens me is that Activision is driven by different factors in their choices for development. At this point, it seems that they will only invest in games that are profitable and along with that mainstream security they will charge the consumer more. Ultimately, if we support this drive for “safe” games, we are supporting Activisions’ motive to make profit, not games.



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