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Activision: EA is Struggling, Smothering Devs

Recently Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said that other publishers would need to play "catch up" in regards to online gaming, citing Facebook as is only real competitor. Now he's spoken out against EA directly, saying that the competitor has struggled for a very long time, and may even be suffocating its studios.

"The core principle of how we run the company is the exact opposite of EA," he said in the latest issue of Edge. "EA will buy a developer and then it will become 'EA Florida,' 'EA Vancouver,' 'EA New Jersey,' whatever. We always looked and said, 'You know what? What we like about a developer is that they have a culture, they have an independent vision and that’s what makes them so successful.' We don’t have an Activision anything--it’s Treyarch, Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer."

He added that--with the exception of two studios--all of the original founders still reside in their studios. The only function Activision serves is as the underlying support structure so that not only can studios be extremely successful, but have the resources to launch a new, original intellectual property (IP aka franchise).

Still, wouldn't this type of non-collective structure be somewhat unstable? Kotick doesn't think so, seemingly confident in their abilities. "Virtually all of our studio heads are serious, responsible people," he explained. "We get in business with people who are responsible, they’re creative, they want to make great games. The incentive schemes that we’ve devised all reward success. But there’s not anything that is a 'Hey, you have to get the game out on Thursday.'"

Kotick said that EA is coming round to Activision's approach, however he added that great people don't want to work there despite its history and resources.

"It’s like, if you have no other option, you might consider them," he said. "They have some… the team that makes Madden is a really great team, it’s been able to manage, capture and keep some good people. But we have no shortage of opportunity to recruit out of EA--that’s their biggest challenge: its stock options have no value. It’s lost its way. And until it has success, and hits, and gets that enthusiasm back for the company, it’s going to have a struggle getting really talented people, which is going to translate into less-than-great games."

Ouch.