Posted by mrniggles on Feb 15, 2011
Mr Niggles Returns – Activision

Mr Niggles Returns – Activision

It has come to my attention that another gaming behemoth is playing God with our past-time. Well it is time for Mr Niggles to dust off his keyboard and address some of the issues that Activision have raised recently. Oh yes.

Activision were a once small company, the first independent publisher set up to rival Atari in 1978. Activision’s goal was to promote the games developers as much as the games themselves and to credit the game writers, something Atari did not do. Activision soon had games writers clamouring to work for them. The launch of Pitfall was a major point in their history, a game widely regarded as the first platform game and a huge seller which put the company firmly on the gaming map.

Unfortunately, they have now grown and distorted into a developer consuming monster with no care for gamers or the artistry of game development. Gone are the days when they cared about such things as people, I mean why give a shit about people as long as there is profit to be had?

Activision is now corporate powerhouse that has grown into one of the largest publishers in the world and seen it chew up and consume once loved games developers. We have watched as its huge gaping mouth sucked up companies like Neversoft, Bizarre Creations, Infinity Ward, Freestyle Games and 7 Studios to name but few. Only for this monster to shit out some of these developers including one of our favourites, Bizarre Creations who sadly are no more. Well why would Activision want a creative and forward thinking studio holding them back? No it is far better to keep churning out Call Of Diarrhoea every year than new and exciting franchises.

Luckily for Activision, (The name is now somewhat ironic as the company seem to have no fucking vision at all.) the merger deal with Vivendi that saw them become Activision Blizzard ensured they could keep churning out brown logs of games year after year whilst falling back on the cash cow of World of Warcraft, should it all fall on its arse.

Once a bastion of protecting games developers, Activision Blizzard are now killing off studios at an alarming rate. Bizarre are only the latest to fall foul of the corporate machine. This is the studio that brought us Metropolis Street Racer, Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars.

But wait, not only are developers in the cross-hairs no gaming franchises like Guitar Hero and True Crime are also now defunct with rumours that Tony Hawks will soon follow. Gone down the toilet of underwhelming yearly updates as corporate greed outstrips creativity. Instead of allowing the games to have a two-year development cycle to give the creators the chance to come up with new ideas, the yearly cycle meant poorly thought out ideas were shovelled in to add variety and gameplay elements that simply didn’t work. With Tony Hawks this meant the gameplay mechanic that made the franchise brilliant was lost in amongst a load of shit RPG and story elements that should never have been included. “But wait why don’t we add an expensive peripheral.” The suits at Activision cried, “That has worked so well in Guitar Hero, we have made loads of cash… What do you mean we haven’t? Right you are all fucking fired!” Development of the next Guitar Hero has ceased, meaning all of you that bought their gadgets and add-ons now have some very ugly pieces of plastic to look at. Okay so you can still go back and play the games that Activision have churned out in the franchise but there will be nothing new and that is just tough shit!

Still there are quite a few Guitar Hero games to fall back on. A whopping 24 in total on all machines in only 5 years. To say that it is probably a few too many is like saying Amy Winehouse likes the occasional drink. Here’s a plan, stop making yearly shit updates and expecting everyone to part with the best part of fifty quid and make a decent update after two years with some new features that actually enhance the gameplay.

Unfortunately Call of Duty is also circling the bowl like a un-flushable turd. Yes it was once a great meal but now is no more than a smelly hindrance that you might need to take a coat hanger to. Yearly updates have proved time-and-time-again not to work. Eventually the public get bored of throwing their money into a franchise that hasn’t had the correct amount of development time. Yes I know there will be those of you out there that will throw the Treyarch and Infinity Ward two year dev-cycle at me but even with a two year lead time Treyarch’s games are shit.

We have seen the bad press and relatively poor sales figures for Black ‘Oops’ and Activision know their biggest cash cow is now on a downward spiral. They are quivering like Catholic Priest at a children’s party and their response is to start up a dedicated studio to do nothing but make COD online content. The name of that studio is Beachhead and they will be tasked with creating the money-spinning map packs and other online goodies that will keep Activision Daddy, Bobby Kotick and his bank manager very happy. This will free up Treyarch and Infinity Ward to concentrate on the retail side of the games. Maybe we can get a COD experience that would last more than seven hours although if we did I might actually go out and shoot someone for real such would be the mundane nature of such an experience.

Of course should COD fall flat on its khaki arse the Activision have a fall back plan. They have jumped into bed with Bungie. Yes Activision don’t care where the Bungie boys have been or that they are having Microsoft’s sloppy seconds, no they know that the Bungie label is a licence to print money. Whether the new ip Bungie are working on is going to be any good remains to be seen but one thing for sure is that we will get to see a lot of it. A ten year deal has been secured and Activision are very excited about it and see it as having a good potential for follow-up titles galore. A company exec claimed “Although the title’s not expected to launch this year, Bungie’s new universe represents tremendous long-term potential for Activision Publishing.”

Of course even if that doesn’t work they can always rely on the reworking of a classic. Yes the world’s favourite dragon, Spyro is set for a return in Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure. But wait, what is this? It won’t be just a game I hear you say? No not only will the new Spyro be a game but also a set of toys that can upload information to the game via the ‘PORTAL OF POWER’ What the fuck? Are you serious? Indeed, the toys will download information into the game and build a unique way of conning more money out of children, it is a lovely world in which we live. These toys will be sold separately and already have the Activision marketing boys working overtime, “These are more than action figures. They are inter-action figures.” said Eric Hirshberg, Activision Publishing CEO before he went off and masturbated over his own awesomeness. Inter-action figures?? Seriously I hope some interacts these figures with his arse. This is the kind of marketing bullshit that brought us phrases like “Let’s think outside the box.” or “Throw it at the wall and see what sticks!” People actually get paid for thinking up this shit! But wait he had more to say, “By pairing world class character design, world class video game design and world class story telling into one entertainment experience, we’ve given players a whole new genre that bridges the gap between the real and virtual worlds.From the first time a kid picked up a stick and pretended it was a sword, toys have unlocked kids’ imaginations. And how often have you wanted to bring those toys to life, to see them become animated and take them on an adventure? Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure does just that.” Which roughly translates into, “See how much money Pokemon and the like makes? We want some of that shit!”

Not content with gobbling up and shitting out some of our favourite developers we now hear that Activision is considering a move to take over Take 2 Interactive. This would involve Rockstar Games falling under the Activision banner as well as the Bioshock Franchise. Despite Kotick claiming “We really embrace the individual studio model. We know how to take studios and talented teams and appropriately incentivise them. We’ve definitely become the destination location for independently minded entrepreneurial talent” We all know that there is no way that Activision will enable games like GTA and Bioshock to have the development cycle that allows these games to be great. “We know how to incentivise them…” Yeah we have seen you ways of incentivising studios mate. Remember them posting security guards outside of Infinity Wards offices without telling anyone there what was going on? That comes right out of the Gestapo book of incentives for dummies.  The thought of these great houses joining Activision makes me shudder. Do we really want yearly, sub-standard updates to Red Dead and Bioshock.

Yet here is hope, it glimmers there on the gaming horizon. A shinning example of gaming redemption, proof that a games company can turn from money hungry megalomania and get back to making games that people actually want. This really sticks in my throat, or fingers more precisely, but EA are that such company. Yes this article could have been written about them only a few years ago as they churned out shit FIFA after shite FIFA. Then one day John Riccitiello rode into town to clean up the business. Big John made sweeping changes to the way EA operated which enabled the developers to start creating new IP’s again, ones with imagination and ideas that come out of their brains not their budgets. Yes they still make the yearly update of FIFA et al, but these generally add to the quality of the game unlike in years gone by. Big John has brought EA back to doing what they do best, making bloody good video games. Something Activision should seriously consider.

Mr Niggles views are purely his own and are not necessarily shared by G4A.
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4 Responses to “Mr Niggles Returns – Activision”

  1. BK says:

    Hear hear!
    An entertaining read there Mr Niggles. Really hope they leave Take 2 alone.

  2. Bullen says:

    Niggles???!!! Dude – you can’t say that! It’s seriously NOT pc!!!

  3. McMark says:

    bloody good show old chap!

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