The big gaming news this week is easily Activision’s firing of the Infinity Ward heads, and the storytelling lawsuit by the two fired against Activision. Infinity Ward heads the Call of Duty franchise, which is one of the three Activision franchises accounting for a gross proportion of the corporation’s income. World of Warcraft and Guitar Hero being the other two. The plaintiff documents paint a picture of pure corporate greed. It is not just the firings of the two people just prior to when they would be paid a believably significant royalty but also the immediate actions of Activision after the firings in creating a Call of Duty business unit. Either Activision is going to very nearly slander the plaintiffs in the response or this will all get settled outside of the public eye. My popcorn bowl hopes for the former.
It brings, once again, an interesting dilemma: how important is it that a gamer’s fun is created by a good-willed corporation?
That’s why we are all here… right? Our enjoyable hobby is to play online games with other people in order to pass the hours by having interactive fun. The hirings, firings, corporate maneuvering, inhumane work conditions, and soul shredding that could occur probably never touches the ear of the majority of those we share our worlds with. Any in-game discussion on the latest corporate soap in an open chat channel would likely be met largely with blank stares and dismissive expletives.
Still, I know. I constantly press for information, for bits of photon that will themselves through the corporate curtain, and the image projected on my allegorical cave wall is not always pretty. I hear about people being led out to a parking lot, like cattle, fired, and then told their personal belongings would be shipped to them. I hear about “move or die” consolidations on development studios. I hear about management c@&-offs that produce tsunamis to those they manage. And, I’ve seen multiple tweets or Facebook statuses of shaken devs implying insobriety and joblessness.
The most important thing to remember is that MMO players are customers of a service. Whether the player subscribes each month, uses microtransactions, or simply buys-the-box, it is the player’s continued contributions to the company that matter. Unlike all the Call of Duty players that really cannot return their merchandise, MMO players have the option of making their voice heard through actions.
I find that my MMO playing, and more importantly my blogging, does follow companies I am proud to support. I shy away from companies that don’t make me feel good to be a customer. Scott “Lum” Jennings had a great article over at mmorpg.com about the chokehold many publishers have over the gaming genre. Their concern is over quarterly stockholder reports where “layoffs are a good start.” Yet, there are development studios with good publisher relationships, whether they are wholly owned or not.
For now, my money talks. I was so close to re-subbing to World of Warcraft, but I just can’t find it in myself to give them money. It was patched and ready to go for this weekend. There are already soothsayings that accord the Blizzard studios a similar shakeup to what happened with Infinity Ward, and I just don’t want my money going that way. There are plenty of other fun MMOs where on top of having an enjoyable time I know I will be giving my money to something I want to continue supporting. But, I can’t blame those that stay. After all, there is really no reason to look behind the curtain.
that you were evil incarnate