A few years ago, many gamers looked down upon Electronic Arts, viewing them as this big sort of "evil" empire. Most of that had to do with them being such a massive company, but a lot had to do with their business decisions in acquiring so many developers. Gamers are loyal to their personal tastes, and seeing a personal favorite company eaten up by a bigger corporate one strikes fear. EA's acquisitions ended up with the shutting down of so many franchises and developers, including Pandemic (Mercenaries), Black Box (Need for Speed), Westwood (Command & Conquer) and Origin (Wing Commander, Ultima). Could those have survived on their own, had EA left them alone?
That was then. Now, Activision has taken up the mantle of being the big bad wolf in town. They're intensely successful and have the top selling franchise in Call of Duty, but as such, some simply want the biggest to fall down.
You can see it from a corporate perspective, with a lot of internet hate going Activision's way as a result of the West & Zampella situation and the Infinity Ward exodus after Modern Warfare 2's release. More recently, some are tossing blame at the company for the failures of their music games DJ Hero and Guitar Hero for flooding the market without innovation, and leading the Tony Hawk series into inadequacy.
But, as Activision's Dan Winters says, they're "not this big, monolithic empire that's making decisions in a dark room."
Winters recently opened up on the issue of Activision's reputation, explaining that a lot of the "bad" buzz simply has to do with them being the biggest in the business, and he's mostly right. You can see it just from how some angry gamers want to see Call of Duty fail hard, for Battlefield 3 to take over.
"As soon as we became the number one and we develop broader perspectives, perceptions started to change a little bit. We've worked very hard, and continue to do so, to let people know that, you know, we're the same guys, we really are. We haven't changed! I'm the same guy that I was before the merger, as are most of us.
“We're the same organisation. We haven't gone out and hired 3000 people. Our ability to scale and move quickly is the same as it was before. We're not this big, monolithic empire that's making decisions in a dark room, we're still very collaborative. We still have the same healthy respect and appreciation for talent that we ever did."
In the end, they're people running a business. Save the trolling for when they announce Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in the next week or two.
As for the closure of Bizarre Creations, that wasn't something they wanted to happen and they did try their best to sell the developer before closing its doors. Winters explains Activision's goal in letting their developers define themselves and giving them as much freedom as possible (except when it comes to meeting release dates... I'm looking at you, Call of Duty)
“With all of our internal studios we have built a process, Bobby [Kotick, CEO] has really done this directly himself, built a process for the independent developer model, that allows them to retain their own culture, their own visibility, their own leadership, really to drive the stewards of the brands. I think those are important pieces of ownership, as it's loosely defined... I think that's an important part of people coming in and having a passion and being able to exercise that passion as opposed to going in and being called publisher's name plus location. That takes some of the individuality away from that studio, and maybe some of their ability to personalize, to put in passion and ownership into their studio process. So I think we've done a good job of that through the years."
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