CEO Bobby Kotick reveals plans for "untethered Guitar Hero," Facebook integration, emotionally resonant animation, and taking "all the fun out of making video games."
During a 45-minute presentation today at the Deutsche Bank Securities Technology Conference in San Francisco, Activision Blizzard CEO Robert Kotick covered a substantial amount of ground. For one, the executive explained how he expects Activision games--specifically Guitar Hero--to bypass consoles altogether. The executive also showed off animation technology he hailed as the future of storytelling in games, pegged the next generation of consoles as being two years out or more, and explained openly why he wants a company culture infused with skepticism, pessimism, and fear.
On the Guitar Hero topic, Kotick told analysts and investors about some potentially big changes in store for the rhythm franchise. When asked about a Guitar Hero game that didn't need a console to operate, Kotick bluntly appraised its benefits.
"I think what the untethered Guitar Hero does is equal the playing field a little more and give you some leverage with first parties when it comes to downloadable content and the business model," Kotick said.
The executive also told attendees to "expect many of our products to be playable independent of a console," specifically saying he'd been impressed with media hub functionalities shown by 1080p TVs that let users stream content from their PCs. He also suggested a day in the not-too-distant future where players' Facebook profiles will be integrated into Guitar Hero, letting them make songs to share with friends, post high scores or favorite songs on their profile pages, and so on.
While games like Guitar Hero have proven popular for the tactile experience of their peripherals, Kotick said Activision is also working to push the envelope in emotional game experiences. He showed the audience a clip of Call of Duty: World at War, saying his friends in the movie industry all react by pointing out how unreal the mouth movement looks. The executive said game makers just haven't reached a point yet where the mouth movement and facial animation of game characters is good enough to establish a compelling emotional attachment from the player.
To remedy that, Kotick noted a real-time rendering and mouth movement technology Activision has been working on. He showed a clip of the technology, saying it could represent nothing less than a transformation of the medium. While Kotick said the technology wouldn't surface until the next generation of games, he did say it would be ready before the next generation of hardware.
Kotick added that publishers don't take advantage of the full capabilities of today's hardware and said it might be some time before the next generation arrives. Typically, console makers give publishing partners about two years' notice when they plan to introduce new hardware, Kotick said. But so far, the console makers haven't given him specs or white papers on new hardware nor have they consulted him on design decisions, leading him to believe their current priority is instead to reduce the cost of each system.
When he wasn't promoting the company's games or technology, Kotick was celebrating its laserlike focus on the bottom line. He 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."
"You have studio heads who five years ago didn't know the difference between a balance sheet and a bed sheet who are now arguing allocations in our CFO's office pretty regularly," Kotick said.
He later added, "We have a real culture of thrift. 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."
If that sounds like it would create a corporate culture that isn't all sunshine and hugs, then it's mission accomplished for Kotick. The executive said that he has tried to instill into the company culture "skepticism, pessimism, and fear" of the global economic downturn, adding, "We are very good at keeping people focused on the deep depression."
[UPDATE] Below is the question which prompted Kotick's response and his full answer, verbatim from the archived conference audio.
Jeetil Patel, Deutsche Bank Securities - Analyst
"What do you think the retailers' willingness these days is to hold inventory on the video game side? Are they building positions today or are they still very reluctant and very careful of how they are buying?"
Bobby Kotick, Activision Blizzard, Inc. - President and CEO
"I don't think it is specific to video games. I think that if you look at how much volatility there is in the economy and, dependent upon your view about macroeconomic picture and I think we have a real culture of thrift. And I think the goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks that we brought in to Activision 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games."
"I think we definitely have been able to instill the culture, the skepticism and pessimism and fear that you should have in an economy like we are in today. And so, while generally people talk about the recession, we are pretty good at keeping people focused on the deep depression."
Don't really care what he says as long as he produces Call of Duty. As the consumer I know that the map packs were overprice sh*t so I didn't buy them. Boycotts are ridiculous, its like saying I won't eat Bananas because the guy making them wants to sell me more Bananas. Grow up.
the people defending kotick have totally missed the point. i know all companies must focus on making a profit. but kotick makes his devs put all their working hours into 'keeping it safe' and stuffing in as much loose ends as possible. basically he is ON PURPOSE SPOILING HIS GAMES so that we can pay for the packs that make the game complete. noone would buy a movie with the last 14 minutes cut out, noone would buy a ferrari where the parts were made to break faster.
And ppl wonder why I refuse to buy any Activision game will this should show them why I mean really ppl like this need shot
If Activision ever comes up with something I absolutely have to play, I'll buy it used so they see no profits. F*** big business, where's Teddy Roosevelt when you need him?
PT 2 This continued for several weeks, until Mummy and Daddy divorced and daddy moved away. Little Bobby grew up, always blaming that small grey box for ruining his happy family. He studied hard day and night and passed all his exams with flying colours (even Business Studies, where he missed a whole unit on motivation & employees). Little Bobby is now a high-ranking manager at a famous entertainment company **I know the timings are probably wrong with consoles and his age, but who cares?**
One day many years ago, a small boy called Bobby woke up late at night, needing to go to the toilet. Little Bobby walked quietly down the stairs, not wanting to wake up mummy and daddy. But little Bobby could hear strange noises coming from the living room. Loud bangs and screams muffled by the closed door. "YOU ******** BETTER *****ING DIE BEFORE I ****ing GET THERE!!! AAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!" rang a menacing shout from behind the door. Little Bobby opened the door to find his daddy shooting person after person on his Playstation. All this blood and violence and shouting scared Little Bobby so much he was emotionally scarred for life. He ran up the stairs crying for his mummy and wouldn't stop shaking all night. Little Bobby's mummy and daddy spent the whole next day fighting in the kitchen while Little Bobby tried not to listen in the living room. He dared not go near the small grey box that had once bought him so much entertainment, but nor did he want to sit by the door where he could hear every horrible nasty word mummy and daddy were screaming at each other, about last night, about him.
Skepticism is all very good but pessimism and fear directly detract from employees' motivation. A motivated worker works harder and produces more for the company. This is particularly true when you have people doing creative work and work that requires problem solving and similar skills. Both of those skills are required in game development. This guy is either bluffing to get attention/publicity or he needs to read about maslows heirachy of needs. This stuff is covered at GCSE busness (15-16 years old for those who dont know). Ah well, at least with activision we're losing guitar hero and CoD, two of those franchise that its "cool to hate" (at least on the internet, irl its different)
He wants a company culture infused with skepticism, pessimism, and fear and deep depression. oh hello communism anyone? try to control the public...rebels anyone?
some of the most fun and best games that I have played come from people that are having fun making the games
@NanoElite666 I thought the same thing when I read that part. Maybe he just doesn't want to acknowledge that because of his past problems with Sony and the PS3.
I think Bobby Kotick is a satanist. Keep people depressed, keep them ineffective. All through subterfuge.
People like this guy make me admire nintendo a whole lot more. The sad thing is though, it doesn't matter how much fun they take out of game making and games themselves, people will continue to buy Activision wholesale now because they are a very popular name. This is what happens when things become more mainstream, the fun and creativity diminishes and everything becomes about making the most money. The same can be said of almost any entertainment industry today.
They jus need to keep this guy out of the public eye.. he's doin no body any favors.. Bah, never thought i'd say it, but i hope EA can get the lid back on Activision and kotick!
What a sad day for Activision I remember loving there Mechwarrior games. Well new company to Boycott at this rate gaming isn't going to be the same as we remember it.
Kotlic probably doesn't even play video games. He probably just plays with himself and all the money he rakes in from WoW and Cod. I can picture his ass smoking a cigar is a pool full of money, old school Ducktales style. LOL. Of course he wants to set a company full of fear he's the CEO. LOL.
I find it ironic that Kotic goes on about lack of good facial animations in video games yet the GH games have the most creepy, wooden and puppet-like character models I have ever seen. Over all Kotik disgusts me.
This guy reminds me of George Steinbrenner. He actually believed he was responsible for the NY Yankees success too. Kotick is going to wake up one day and realize what complete buffoon he really is.
Yep this moron just signed Activision's death warrant. A statement like that will not encourage dev worth a !@$# to work for you. Game making takes a lot of dedication and is stressful enough in and of itself. What a bonehead.
What a douchebag. At least the CEO of my company has the common sense not to say these things in public.
This guy seems like Atari from the pre-Nintendo era all over again. Let's run things with an iron fist, that'll make everyone happy!
this man is nasty yo... if there is no joy in making games...no feeling..then what is the point. This man is going to try to fix games that do not need fixed...and in the end ruin them entirely.
"...game makers just haven't reached a point yet where the mouth movement and facial animation of game characters is good enough to establish a compelling emotional attachment from the player." Really? Has he ever heard of a studio called Naughty Dog? They are probably one of the best game developers out there when it comes to doing facial animation, in my opinion. Both the Uncharted series AND the last-gen Jak & Daxter series feature faaaaaaaaaaaantastic facial animation for characters in their respective games (doesn't matter that the latter example has a cartoon-y visual style to it, the animation is still top-notch). See also: Insomniac's work with the Ratchet & Clank series (especially the PS3-era games), and oh, I don't know, a little something known as the Half-Life 2 series.
Maybe no-one told him that video-games are meant to be fun? And if the developers are not having any fun making the game, it would be a stretch to expect players to enjoy it. I expect this just hyperbole aimed at making investors feel less jittery as some big names go underwater and Guitar Hero-style games-sales fall through the floor.
@ themidgethotel I can understand that. And my comments are directed towards Kotlick. I know what writing code is like, I didnt work on games, I work on spreadsheet programs back in dos days. But everybody around me was happy, I was happy, and we didnt have some jerk above us trying to take our fun away. and thats what this guy comes across as. I don't know about you, but if someone like that was at the head of our department, I would've walked away from that job as fast as I could find a new one.
Wow, this guy truly does sound as bad as people say. But you know what? I'm not gonna judge him only by some article talking about him, no matter how much I trust this website. So... does anyone know if there's a place where I can watch that presentation of his? Is it on video at all? I simply have to hear that presentation for myself to believe it.
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