Nicodemus slams Activision CEO

I woke up this morning and was stunned to see an article on gamesindustry.biz where the CEO of Activision, Bobby Kotick, is quoted as saying some pretty insane things at the Goldman Sachs Technology Investment Symposium earlier this week.

“We don’t think that even if we made the USD 500 million or billion-dollar investment to get a product out [to compete with WOW] that we would even be successful doing it,”

This is ludicrous on a massive scale and demonstrates that Kotick (and by association, Activision) literally has no clue when it comes to MMORPGs. Spending 500M to a billion dollars on a single MMORPG would have the same level of historic stupidity and waste as the Atari E.T. game (if you don’t know about that, look it up). Not only that, but for a company like Activision to spend that much, it would pretty much guarantee its sheer and absolute failure on an epic scale. It is ABSOLUTELY possible to create a MMORPG with a tenth of that amount and be competitive with WoW (and profitable).

“When we first started looking at it, it appeared to us like a game in an insurmountable product category… EA, Microsoft, Sony and scores of venture capital investments had been put to work unsuccessfully in trying to develop massively multiplayer games as a product opportunity,”

Why is that, do you think? The problem is the management of those companies, old misconceptions of what an MMORPG is or how to make one, and a lot of really, really bad design. Why is it that the companies that are most successful in the MMORPG space are the small or independent developers working with original IP? Why is it that the big publishers screw things up when they acquire these developers, or they throw massive amounts at a game that is just craptastic and then either cancel it or blame someone else on the failure?

“When you… Look at all the money that’s already gone to these businesses that have failed, there didn’t seem a likelihood that even a well-managed company like Activision would have the prospect for profit any time soon in this category.”

Oh, please. This was a pretty narcissistic and arrogant comment. “even a well-managed company like Activision”, bah! Considering a half billion for an MMORPG is not well-managed at all. You might as well be smoking the money in the bathroom. My advice to Kotick…if you want to make money on an MMORPG, give your money to someone that knows what they are doing. It isn’t hard making a MMORPG profitable if the people making it are halfway intelligent and not monkey drones working in your generic game development factory.

Ok, so why am I so pissed about this? The audience that Kotick was talking to was the attendees of a technology investment symposium. If any of those people were looking at investing in game developers or funding new MMO ventures or even financing publisher expansion, Kotick just made it look like anything related to MMORPGs was a fat waste of time and not worth the risk. He single-handedly spit in everyone’s eye and effectively torpedoed someone’s chances at getting funding. This will have a subtle backlash effect on gamers too. If it is harder to find funding for new titles, you will see fewer games, less innovation (in a market where there is barely any to start with), and more games based on dumb Hollywood licenses (the argument being that a license lowers risk). Even worse, his comments have hit the press now and will probably hit mainstream market analysis and research reports.

Great job Kotick. Thanks a lot. I’ll be sure and dedicate my next MMORPG design project to you. I hope you don’t get punched in the face by an independent studio exec at the next game conference.
Speaking of which…this is an open request to everyone in the industry out there…if you have a funding pitch that gets nerfed because of Kotick’s asinine comments, please let me know.

Kotick, I think you owe us an apology and a retraction or at least a damn good (and detailed) explanation at why you think it would take $500-$1B to compete with WoW, and why you think MMORPGs are an “insurmountable product category”. Who has been feeding you your information?