NEWS - Monday, September 27, 2010

Activision CEO Claims EA is Struggling.

It’s not often that a CEO of one company offers a full-on critique of a competitor, but that’s essentially what Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has done with Electronic Arts. Kotick described in an interview how different Activision’s "core principles" are from EA’s and how that’s led to success for his company while EA has "been struggling for a really long time."
"The core principle of how we run the company is the exact opposite of EA," Kotick told Edge magazine. "EA will buy a developer and then it will become ’EA Florida,’ ’EA Vancouver.’ ’EA New Jersey,’ whatever. We always looked and said, ’You know what? What we like about a developer is that they have a culture, they have an independent vision and that’s what makes them so successful.’ We don’t have an Activision anything -- it’s Treyarch, Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer."

Kotick claimed that these are "unassailable rules of building a publishing company." He also noted that with two exceptions, the original founders of all of Activision’s studios continue to run them today. Some people might claim that Activision forces its studios to pump out games at too high a frequency, though Kotick said in the interview, "I think one of the benefits we have [with] being a big company is that we don’t have the same pressures of, ’Oh, we have to have it out for this particular quarter.’ There’s not a studio at this company that will tell you: ’Activision is forcing us to get the game out.’"

He didn’t seem especially optimistic about the chances of EA turning around and adopting a model more like Activision’s: "[EA’s] DNA isn’t oriented towards that model -- it doesn’t know how to do it, as a culture or as a company, and it never has... Look, EA has a lot of resources, it’s a big company that’s been in business for a long time, maybe it’ll figure it out eventually. But it’s been struggling for a really long time. The most difficult challenge it faces today is: great people don’t really want to work there."

Critics would argue that’s not the case; former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella founded Respawn Entertainment earlier this year and signed a publishing deal with EA. A number of other studios have also entered into publishing deals with EA through the EA Partners program, which allows developers to remain independent, some examples being Crytek with the Crysis series, Epic Games with Bulletstorm, and Harmonix with the Rock Band series.

Continuing his thought about developers not wanting to work for EA, Kotick added, "It’s like, if you have no other option, you might consider them. They have some... the team that makes Madden is a really great team, it’s been able to manage, capture and keep some good people. But we have no shortage of opportunity to recruit out of EA -- that’s their biggest challenge: its stock options have no value. It’s lost its way. And until it has success, and hits, and gets that enthusiasm back for the company, it’s going to have a struggle getting really talented people, which is going to translate into less-than-great games."

It should be interesting to see if EA’s CEO, John Riccitiello, or any other EA executive, decides to respond to what Kotick has asserted. Whether or not anyone does, what do you think of what Kotick has said about EA?



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