วันศุกร์ที่ 18 มิถุนายน พ.ศ. 2553
06/18/2010 3DS is 'brilliant' - Activision COO

E3 2010: In an in-depth interview, Thomas Tippl singles out Nintendo handheld for praise, explains publisher's lack of Kinect and Move games, downplays criticism from "vocal minority."

Walking the Electronic Entertainment Expo ' two mammoth halls overflowing with exhausted attendees, elaborate booths, and excessive noise, it's easy to miss the fact that one very significant player in the gaming industry doesn't have its own presence on the show floor. Activision, the world's largest third-party publisher, opted against an E3 booth this year, instead holding court in a private meeting room elsewhere in the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Activision COO Thomas Tippl.

That was where Activision chief operating officer Thomas Tippl met with GameSpot for an in-depth interview, answering questions on everything from this year's E3 to the rash of detractors the publisher has attracted in recent years. The executive also discussed the lack of announced Activision support for the Kinect and Move, as well as what mistakes the publisher made in handling Guitar Hero last year and how it can avoid similar problems with the Call of Duty franchise.

GameSpot: What have you thought of E3 so far?

Thomas Tippl: Well, it's not my first E3. I would say there's the usual excitement. It's great to see that first parties are coming out with new innovations. I was particularly impressed by the 3DS, and it got a great reception. It's a brilliant product. Nintendo's figured out the glasses--or the lack thereof--are key. The integration of the 3D camera was a brilliant move. And if they also address the piracy issues they have and upgrade the copyright protection system, I think it's going to be a big success and draw publisher interest to put more resources against publishing a game in this platform.

GS: So far DJ Hero is the only Activision franchise announced for the 3DS, but a lot of your competitors are already on board and completely committed with more games. Is there any hesitation on Activision's part?

TT: No. You'll hear more titles as they come.

Tippl was particularly taken with the 3DS.

GS: How about the Kinect and Move? Why hasn't Activision announced any dedicated titles or even titles that have features supporting them?


GS: Are you unconvinced of the longevity of the casual market then?

TT: I'm convinced of the longevity. I just look at the current macroeconomic environment. You look back at 2009, and you recognize the casual consumer is cash strapped. Unemployment rates are in double digits. People who have a job today are worried whether they'll have a job tomorrow. That has certainly impacted consumers' ability to buy higher priced peripheral products, and we felt that ourselves last year. We had a whole slate of peripheral-based products out there and have not achieved our objectives because people find it more difficult to spend $100 or $120 or $200 on these types of games right now.

That doesn't mean when the economy turns around, there's not going to be an opportunity again for us. In the meantime, we right sized out investment and decided we need fewer but better properties, and you see that in our release slate. We focused on one major Guitar Hero release and one major DJ Hero release. We put more songs than ever in there to improve the value to consumers. We introduced Guitar Hero to the iPhone, which provides a lower price point entry for consumers to start enjoying the music experience in interactive entertainment. We're always adjusting to the marketplace, and I think that's been one of our strengths. That's why we've done much better than many of our competitors.

Activision probably made too many Guitar Hero games last year, Tippl admits.

GS:In retrospect, how would you cope with the Guitar Hero franchise in different ways in the past year?

TT: Last year, we probably worked too much information in this environment. Perhaps we have too much hardware cost issues that for many consumers can not be resolved. If I could do last year again, we 'd probably be doing what we do in this year.

GS: Do you expect sales of the rhythm genre to get back to where they were in 2008?

TT: I think it will be tough to get back to that peak in the near term. For that, we need the economy and consumer confidence to turn around; to get back to those levels. We need the casual consumer to come back. We need the Wii platform to significantly improve its momentum. But we think we have an opportunity to grow from this basis going forward.

GS: What are you doing to ensure Call of Duty doesn't have the same problem with too much of it on the marketplace?


We're not going to come out with a Call of Duty release every quarter. We'll continue to have a major blockbuster release in the holiday season every year just like we have with Black Ops--which is shaping up phenomenally--and then continue to build on the online experience and meet those product features and desires we've seen from our consumer research.

As for Call of Duty, Tippl says the company hasn't been making enough games to keep up with consumer demand.

GS: Have you changed your expectations for the next generation consoles, and when it starts?

TT: I don't think there's anything imminent because we would know already. It takes two to three years to make a game, and publishers would want us to be present at launch; otherwise, there's no reason for consumers to buy a next-generation platform. Right now, I think you see most of them are very focused on the user interface. A lot of innovation has been in user interface and online. For neither of those two things do you necessarily need a new box.

GS: In a call with analysts this week, CEO Bobby Kotick said Activision that the purpose for Activision should be the most profitable entertainment company in 5 to 10 years at the time '. Will that need to expand Activision, what he does in kind as well, Marvel Comics began making films, rather than cooperation with others to get them done?

TT: It's very unlikely that we'll start making movies. The reason we set that objective, and we're confident in our ability to achieve that, is consumers' entertainment habits are changing. More and more consumers choose to spend their time with an interactive form of entertainment. So we expect over the next five to 10 years, that trend will continue, and it will continue to gain market share within the overall entertainment market, which today is about a $1.6 trillion market. And video games make up less than 5 percent. There's a huge opportunity.

I'm experiencing this myself. I'm in the first generation of parents that grew up with video games, so for us, it's no longer this evil thing that's overcoming our children. We've all grown up with it, and it's natural for us that our children entertain themselves in an interactive forum. The whole online opportunity that has made games a social experience has made a huge difference. The technology allowing us to tell stories and create emotional connections with characters through facial animation has never been seen before.

The Modern Warfare 2 launch was one step in the publisher's plan to becoming the most profitable entertainment company in the world.

Lastly, the ability to offer consumers an experience everywhere is going to continue to drive this. No matter where they go, they can stay connected with their favorite brand and form of entertainment. I don't know whether it's going to take us five years or 10 years, but I think the trend line is very clear. Once you are number one, you need to make sure you don't get complacent, so you set yourself new, challenging objectives in order to make progress.

GS: You mentioned the fear people might have of the medium if they didn't grow up with games. The Entertainment Software Association has been one of the organizations most dedicated to trying to change that, but what does it say when the largest third-party publisher in the world is not a member of the trade group representing it?

TT: We used to be in the ESA, and unfortunately, we haven't found it as effective as we thought it needed to be. So we have launched our own efforts, and we're making our own investments in that direction to educate the public, regulators, government officials, and also to do right for the broader community. Look at the efforts we have undertaken individually around our Call of Duty Foundation. We're making a massive effort to reintegrate veterans coming back from the various war zones. And the efforts we're spending with having created our own internal department around public policy and making sure we educate regulators, families, and what have you is something we're trying out to see whether we can be more effective that way. And I wouldn't rule anything out down the road.

GS: There have been a lot of developers recently making high-profile deals while retaining the intellectual property they make: Bungie, Insomniac, Spawn Is this the direction the creators to get leverage as industry matures?

TT: I don't know. I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all approach to these partnerships. And there are plenty of other examples: Sledgehammer Games, Bizarre Creations, you name it. At the current stage of the industry, there are a lot of developers out there looking for partners and the type of capability that an Activision-Blizzard can bring to the party. And if you look at the partnership we entered into with Bungie, it's a very long-term partnership. And there are many elements of this partnership that were required for us to make sense out of the way it has been structured. It's a 10-year exclusive alliance. It has lots of elements that for confidentiality reasons we're not able to talk about. But do I think this is a sea change? I don't think so. I don't think there are many developers out there that have the capability of Bungie where this kind of partnership would make sense.

Halo developer Bungie got to own its new IP, but Activision had some terms of its own.

GS: Also during the call, Bobby Kotick talked about a "culture of thrift" in the company. But people seem to think with Blizzard, you just give them the resources they want and then step back, letting them do what they do. Are they exempt from that culture of thrift?

TT: No, and I don't think they want to be exempt from that. The culture of thrift isn't about not investing in the games. It's exactly about investing in the games. If we don't waste money on golden toilets and what have you, that gives us the resources to invest in the games so we make a great game. Subsequently, it gives us the ability to spend big in marketing a game.

Double Fine's fan base wasn't happy when Activision opted not to release Brutal Legend and then sued when the studio found another publisher.

GS: Activision's not too popular with some gamers after Kotick's comments about taking the fun out of development, Claim Brutal Legend , or the Infinity Ward drama earlier this year. How do you deal with that negative perception? Is it something you can see affecting the bottom line at all?


Would we feel better about a more balanced perspective and sometimes not getting things taken out of context? Of course we would. Can we do a better job reaching out to the gamer community and explaining why we take certain decisions? I think we can. And I think we'll continue to do that and make sure we'll get better at it. But overall, what we're focused on is making sure our games are great, our franchises are well respected and trusted by consumers, and that we continue to do the right thing for the community, our employees, our retailers. And if we do that well and show how we deliver value to our stakeholders, over time, I think that will be more important than what you can read on some of the message boards.

Read and write comments | Get the full article at GameSpot

"3DS is 'brilliant' - Activision COO " was posted by Brendan Sinclair on Thu, 17 Jun 2010 17:21:21 -0700


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