Ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t already know this face, then now is the time to commit it to memory. Robert “Bobby” Kotick, CEO of gaming giant Activision-Blizzard, seems to be on a one-man mission to make gamers and game developers angry. Kotick’s statements to, and about, the videogame industry regularly make the somewhat insensitive comments from THQ seem like a compliment.
So clearly not afraid to make a few enemies, Kotick spoke at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference about another future business opportunity – movies.
Anyone who has played through StarCraft 2, or any Blizzard game, knows what a high standard the cinematics set. The small movie moments feature stunning visuals, talented voice acting, and well-directed action. Some people might even be willing to pay just to watch those by themselves!
Well Bobby Kotick is way ahead of you:
“If we were to take that hour, or hour and a half, take it out of the game, and we were to go to our audiences for whom we have their credit card information as well as a direct relationship and ask, ‘Would you like to have the StarCraft movie?’, my guess is that … you’d have the biggest opening weekend of any film ever.”
Digital distribution is nothing new to enthusiast gamers, and some even see it as the future of gaming at large. But Kotick placed emphasis on how Activision is uniquely placed to have success in digital distribution, specifically with cutscene-movies:
“Within the next five years, you are likely to see us do that. That may be in partnership with somebody, it may be alone,”
“But there will be a time where we capitalize on the relationship that we have with our audience, and deliver them something that is really extraordinary and let them consume it directly through us instead of theatrical distribution.”
No question videogame movies can look awesome, but Kotick projected a cost of $20-$30 for a movie, which may be hard to justify when the individual cinematics are included for free in the game.
But really, who is surprised? Kotick went on to explain how much easier it is to expand the distribution of digital animation, since you don’t have to worry about dealing with agents or lawyers for the characters if the project length is extended, since they aren’t real actors. Hopefully he’s not forgetting about the people who actually have to voice those characters (actors) or the people who animate them (developers).
It’s hard not to be a little creeped out by Kotick’s immediate inclusion of having customers’ “credit card information as well as a direct relationship” as a selling point. If you found that off-putting, as well as the phrase “capitalize on the relationship that we have with our audience” then you are not alone.
Of course, this is only the most recent in a long line of potential Kotick announcements that gamers and game developers have found unfavorable including the omnipresent rumor that Kotick wishes to put and end to the online community surrounding Activision‘s juggernaut Call of Duty by introducing a subscription service, forcing players to pay, constantly, for access to online multiplayer. This is the same community of gamers who got burned by the raised price of DLC for their favorite game – a game that they continue to be loyal to above all others.
It’s no surprise that Activision keeps Kotick employed after one of the largest fallouts in recent gaming history, since under his leadership they’ve had their most profitable years ever. Bobby Kotick’s methods are working, and for better or worse, he will most likely continue to shape the future of gaming.
How do you feel about the statements? Are you one of the many people who burn Kotick in effigy, or do you find yourself unable to blame a CEO for getting success through any means necessary?