Robert Kotick can’t seem to get enough of controversy at the minute. Here is a man at the head of one of the top gaming publishers in the world, a man who is in charge of so much responsibility and a man who for his own reasons, seems to hate the gaming world.
First he announced the rise in pricing for Modern Warfare 2 with copies reaching up to the dizzy heights of around £55 per console copy of the game. This was shortly followed by a complete contradiction of his former views claiming that due to the high price of the Playstation 3 and its accessories, Activision didn’t feel it was a profitable platform to produce games for. All of this coming from the man who watches Guitar Hero (a game with a plastic guitar) sell millions of units with each going for up to £100 in the United Kingdom on release. Seemingly not content with angering the console and pc crowds, Kotick recently made a speech at the 2009 Deutsche Bank Securities Technology Conference in which he claimed the future of video games (more specifically, game development) was one “without fun”; a nice choice of words there from one of the most powerful men in gaming.
Kotick doesn’t seem to realise that the games industry is an entertainment one, built on the foundations of fun. Imagine if he was in charge of cinema and film distribution. Would every film be a low budget, art house piece of crap where we sit and watch a girl drink, smoke and cry for 5 minutes whilst a man pats her on the shoulder? Probably, but heh, if we take out the fun all we’re left with is mind numbing boredom and drawn out references to social problems (for those wondering about the above, it’s probably daddy issues). The problem is that if said film sells out he’ll be encouraged to make more (unless he’s Uwe Boll, in which case he will just make more...).
As the industry grew it was always likely that management types such as this would take an interest and it’s a shame to say that we as gamers may have brought this upon ourselves. Who else remembers the days of demo’s, shareware and (dare I say it) free games! It was a time in which people were just expected to have fun and nothing else. Nowadays it’s all about addicting the consumer to a concept, rather than allowing them to just enjoy something.
Games such as World of Warcraft rake in millions ever year and although enjoyed by gamers, one has to ask what exactly it gives people over other games? An epic story? Great characters? An amazing setting? Endless replayability? You could probably tick some boxes however a lot of questions remain. Endgame raiding for example just screams endless repetition to me and can it really be called replay value when you’re paying money for the game each month? Sure fans may love it, but for me, the growing price of the game over time does not make it a worthwhile investment. Compare this with a game such as Dead Space that cost a maximum of £40 on release (Around 3-4 months of World of Warcraft, not including the price of the boxed media), a game that attempted (and succeeded) to revitalise the horror genre. Despite its great reviews, the game encountered poor sales EA and had apparently considered scrapping the brand until they saw the cult following it had developed. Companies seem to be in favour of scrapping innovation in return for a profit, and it’s something people like Kotick are really pushing for. The problem is that shareholders and investors are seeking profits and are likely to agree with him, thus forcing the industry down a very bad road.
Before someone says it, piracy is NOT the answer. But neither is shelling out large amounts of money on games that are using their name to generate interest. Just look at FarCry 2, what a crock of shit that was. Look for innovation, look for fun and through buying these games we can hope to show the industry that fun is the way forward, that fun is what the consumer wants when they’re spending their money.
Maybe a Modern Warfare 2 article next week. Maybe...