Sweet merciful Christ, please, please I implore you, tell me where to begin. Distilling Activision’s list of contemptuous transgressions into a one-page entry is a bit like trying to write ‘A History of Genocide: The Bluffer’s Notes’. Franchises were whored, good games were killed, gamers were pissed on and pissed off, developers were treated like crap, and nothing but Call of Duty seemed to matter. Activision's 2010 is one big catalogue of hideous behaviour with a blatant disregard for consequences. But since I've just mentioned CoD, let's start there, shall we?
It killed every one of its own games that wasn’t Call of Duty
Yep, sorry all Activision games without ACOGs, UAVs and ludicrously contrived and pretty awful plot twists. This year the big A had a pond and a sack full of rocks with your name on them. The hardline drowned-at-birth policy applied to the likes of Raven’s wonderful Half-Life-meets-BioShock shooter Singularity, the still-great, still-ignored sequel to DJ Hero, Blur, the new racer by Project Gotham dev Bizarre Creations, and the we-have-no-idea-whether-it’s-any-good-or-not-because-we-haven’t-seen-it-outside-of-the-very-occasional-TV-ad Tony Hawk: Shred. Even Blood Stone, Bizarre's Bond game, received remarkably little publicity for a such a big license.
Barely any publicity happened either pre or post launch for any of these games (make that zero publicity in Singularity’s case), and we journos didn’t get but a scrap of preview code for more than a couple of them. We knew nothing of them, you knew nothing of them, and thus, they tanked. As those of you who follow Nathan on Twitter will know, we didn’t even have any idea that Tony Hawk’s new game has snowboards in until we saw them on TV. It shouldn't surprise you then, that said game currently has but a single review on Metacritic.
Basically, Activision has a total money-bomb in Call of Duty, and if your IP isn’t feeding into its explosion, don’t expect it to care what you’re doing.
It put its developers on the wrong projects
Although it clearly doesn't like you to know it, Activision has some serious development talent on its books, owning a stack of studios it has built and acquired based on strong reputations and consistent successes in an eclectic spread of fields. Recently however, it seems to have become bored of said talent, and has thus started to freshen things up by diversifying the kind of games it's working on.
Though for a more accurate picture, you might want to rework that last sentence, replacing the word "freshen" with "f*ck" and the word "diversify" with the phrase "making an unholy pig's ear of dictating".
Above: Sometimes people should just stick to what they're good at
This year, we've had uber-pro racing studio Bizarre Creations working on a Bond shooter with a few basic driving bits. We've had Tony Hawk creator Neversoft made to bash out another production line Guitar Hero, while Tony Hawk itself continued down its popular-as-herpes peripheral-controlled path with another game by relative fledgling Robomodo. Not that the latter really matters, as Activision made sure no-one bought Tony Hawk: Shred anyway. Oh, and following the not-great performance of both Blur and Blood Stone, Bizarre is now up for closure or sale. Activision's tactical thinking is working out for everyone this year!
It butchered Infinity Ward and created a new rival
They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Activision slightly misheard that one in 2010, and thought the axiom was “Turn your close friends into your enemies and then make those enemies really close rivals”. Infinity Ward has long been the central pillar in the Call of Duty franchise. And the Call of Duty franchise has long been the central pillar in Activision’s whole money factory. Good idea to keep that particular talent on-side then, ‘Vision?
Nah, you’re right, screw ‘em. What’s the worst that can happen, right?
Above: What could possibly go wrong, Bobby, what could possibly go wrong?
Well if that screwing allegedly consists of allegedly withholding massive pay bonuses owed for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in order to allegedly keep said talent loyal and working on Modern Warfare 3, the worst could consist of a massive falling out with Infinity Ward’s studio heads, a lawsuit for said alleged bonuses, the firing of said studio heads, and a mass walkout of staff in the weeks following. So you know, no biggy, like.
And now the two Wayward Infinity Ward men, President Jason West and CEO Vince Zampella, have set up Respawn Entertainment, a cheekily-named new studio currently signed up with Activision mega-rival EA. And the vast majority of the resigned Infinity Ward now works there. Oh, and if West and Zampella win their court case in May, they might well be able to block Activision from making any further Modern Warfare games. As well as scoring a borderline rude amount of money in the process.
Rumours that Bobby Kotick is now wearing extra-large pants to contain all the poop are currently unsubstantiated.
It received a cyber-smackdown from fans. Twice
Dedicated servers for Black Ops? After their non-appearance in the PC version of Modern Warfare 2, the community did cry out with joy. Dedicated servers hacked by some 17-year-old kid in Manchester within a month of release? Affected CoD players didn’t cry out with anything, because the score-boosting denial of service attack saw them unable to get into the game at all.
And then there was Real ID. Blizzard’s supposed answer to online aggro was a new system which forced forum users to use their real names. The internet naturally responded with a mighty wave of “F*CK NO!”, citing unwilling revelation of personal information as the totally justifiable reason REAL ID was a bad idea. Neither Blizzard nor its partner company Activision thought said reason was justifiable, however, and one Blizzard dev posted his real name on the forums to prove it.
Turns out the fear was justifiable. Justifiable by way of a Blizzard dev’s leaked address, phone number and age. And photos and info on Bobby Kotick’s wife and kids. REAL ID? Yeah, no-one’s using it any more.
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