Last weekend, Activision
CEO Bobby Kotick gave details on what he believes represents the future of gaming—and managed to become the poster child for unhappy workplaces. We'll talk gaming first.
Current-generation consoles like the PS3, XBox 360, and Wii have been very kind to Activision and its lucrative Guitar Hero franchise, but Kotick doesn't seem inclined to pay much attention to them over the next couple years. Rather than picking one console to support above the other two, Kotick plans to develop games that bypass consoles altogether and are playable on TV media hubs or equivalent technologies. This could broaden the spectrum of gamers, and bring others into the fold, but it's a rather strange proposition, given that even a cutting-edge 'media hub' isn't going to pack the processor power or graphics capability of even a modest PC or current-generation console.
Animation and facial structure was another major discussion topic; Kotick claimed that developers don't take full advantage of current hardware, and doesn't expect the next generation of consoles to appear in the next two years. Before that happens, Activision will have completed its work on the animation project mentioned above. Bobby claims the new engine will help gaming move one step closer to true realistic imaging
, and that the technology will be available for use on the next generation of consoles, as opposed to surfacing too late, after components and capabilities have been locked in.
NVIDIA Medusa Tech Demo - Facial Animation
Kotick's real bombshell of a statement didn't hit until he stopped talking about gaming technology and started discussing his views on corporate culture. According to Gamespot, Kotick "pointed to changes he implemented in the past as being particularly beneficial, such as designing the employee incentive program so it 'really rewards profit and nothing else.'"
The red is starting to make more and more sense...
According to the CEO, studio heads now regularly argue with CFO's over the allocation of funds, each competing with the others for cash. If this doesn't sound like much fun—and it doesn't—that's Bobby's stated plan. "We have a real culture of thrift," Kotick said. "The goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks into Activision about 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games."
The CEO's long-term vision, in his own words, is to instill the corporate culture with "skepticism, pessimism, and fear...We are very good at keeping people focused on the deep depression." You'd think the man might've learned his lesson when indivuals and press organizations decried his plan to strictly focus on games that "have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform with clear sequel potential and have the potential to become $100 million dollar franchises." Evidently not. In Bobby's world, the best games are produced when every employee is in a constate state of fear, projects are always on the brink of being killed, the ability to generate profit is the only yardstick by which an employee's value is measured, and
—let's not forget—making video games is not fun.
Wow. Just wow. Hopefully Activision will vote to change its CEO before playing games becomes just as not-fun as designing them is apparently supposed to be.