GamesBeat

As gaming evolves, Activision zeroes in on its Destiny, Call of Duty, and Skylanders (interview)

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare

Hirshberg: We’re a very focused company by nature. We’re very choosy about the new ventures about the new ventures we take on. This year we’ve got a couple of big ones. We’re trying to make Destiny the biggest new IP launch ever. We’re still working on our free-to-play version of Call of Duty for the Chinese market, as well as big investments in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Skylanders: Trap Team. We’ve got a full plate.

In terms of our willingness to experiment, I think we’ve shown that. We’ve done some very highly rated and well-received mobile games. None of them have broken through from a commercial standpoint, not the way that our games on other platforms have, but they’ve been well-reviewed. We have good capabilities. We have no new announcements today, but we’re constantly exploring how we can best please fans on those platforms.

GamesBeat: The other interesting thing about that $100 billion market is that if you move into adjacent markets, there are other opportunities. The toy market is a way to expand.

Hirshberg: When you asked about our willingness to expand, I know you were thinking specifically about mobile, but like I say, I think we follow the best creative ideas. Who would have thought, a couple of years ago, that Activision would be one of the most successful toy manufacturers in the world? That’s an example of following a great idea and producing and marketing it with excellence.

GamesBeat: It’s interesting to guess at how large the toy-game segment is going to be and how many successful players will be in it. Disney’s in there, and Nintendo is coming.

Hirshberg: We’re certainly going to find out. With the scale of the success of Skylanders, everybody with relevant IP for that age group is probably having the same conversation about finding a way to compete and participate.

Skylanders Trap Team

GamesBeat: The multiplayer online battle arena looks like another area where the same question applies. Will it support more players than Dota 2 and League of Legends? All these new MOBAs are arriving, and we’ll see if they get traction. It seems to be affecting other genres, too, like with Rainbow Six: Siege.

Hirshberg: In the entire industry, good ideas feed off one another. In the same way that Destiny is obviously partially inspired by games outside of the first-person shooter genre, as other genres capture imaginations and draw big audiences, of course people are going to be inspired to experiment with adding elements of those genres into their games and come up with something new. MOBA’s definitely one that’s gotten a lot of fans, a lot of traction out there.

GamesBeat: Your boss, Bobby Kotick got quoted, and probably misquoted, on the $500 million figure for Destiny. It sounded like that would be more over 10 years or so.

Hirshberg: It’s an all-encompassing number that includes a lot of things. It got misinterpreted as a production-only number. It includes marketing, manufacturing, and multiple years. That said, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that we’ve made a big investment in this game, that we’re taking a big bet on it, and for good reason. It’s the first game post-Halo from the team at Bungie. They’re one of the best developers in the industry, joining forces with a publisher that knows how to go big and market things well and help them with their vision. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that that’s a big investment.

GamesBeat: Call of Duty looks very good. The graphics seemed better than they have been.

Hirshberg: I don’t think that should be a surprise. It’s our first three-year development. That gives us more time for polish and experimentation. It’s also the first truly next-gen development, since last year’s was developed for the previous generation through the majority of the process. The new machines didn’t exist in their final state. This is the first time our teams had a good long period of time to work with that hardware.

GamesBeat: Do you have any larger thoughts on where we are?

Hirshberg: I remain fascinated by the degree to which it seems like we live in a franchise world. People, across all media, seem to be most attracted to worlds that have the depth and the complexity and the characters to keep them coming back over a period of years. You see it in the movie business, the book business, in our business. It’s different than it used to be.

That makes launching new IP more challenging, but also more of an opportunity if you can get it right, as we’re hoping to do with Destiny. The reason for us betting big on it is because if you can do it, you don’t just have a hit this year. You have a new world for people to live in and come back to.

To me, that’s a lot of fun, thinking about creative ideas on that scale. You look at it and say, is this a world I want to come back to again and again.

Bungie's collaborative shooter Destiny in action.

Above: Bungie’s collaborative shooter Destiny in action.

Image Credit: Bungie
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