Activision/Blizzard

by Isaac Davis

Formed in 2008 with the merging of Activision and Vivendi Games, Activision Blizzard is the second-largest video game publisher in North America.

Board of Directors
Robert A. Kotick – President and CEO
Jean-Bernard Lévy – Chairman
Brian G. Kelly – Co-Chairman
Philippe G. H. Capron – Director
Robert J. Corti – Director
Frédéric R. Crépin – Director
Lucian Grainge – Director
Robert J. Morgado – Director
Stéphane Roussel – Director
Richard Sarnoff – Director
Régis Turrini – Director

Notable Franchises

  • Call of Duty
  • Guitar Hero
  • Tony Hawk
  • Skylanders
  • Spiderman
  • James Bond
  • Warcraft
  • Starcraft
  • Diablo

Business (January 2012 – May 2012)
Activision Blizzard’s past fiscal year was “better than expected,” earning $4.49 billion, as opposed to $4.48 billion in 2010. Their Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was the top-selling title of the year, with its accompanying Call of Duty Elite service hosting over 7 million registered users and 1.5 million paid subscribers. The new Skylanders toy line/children’s game proved quite successful, selling 20 million toys worldwide1.

World of Warcraft (WoW), however, declined from 11.1 million subscribers to 10.2 million this year, with at least some of the decline being attributed to competitor Electronic ArtsStar Wars: The Old Republic, which released in December 20112.

Following this news, WoW’s development studio, Blizzard Entertainment laid off 600 employees in an “organizational shift,” placing their current staff at around 5,000 worldwide3.

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick

In February, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick became a member of Coca-Cola’s board of directors. He had previously been a board member at Yahoo! from 2003 to 20084.

On March 5th, Activision hired Dennis Durkin, former VP and COO of Microsoft, as their new CFO5.

On April 5th, Worlds, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard over the technology used in WoW and Call of Duty (CoD). Worlds holds patents on a “system and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space”, and they had, in 2008, filed a lawsuit against NCSoft over their game City of Heroes, though it was dismissed in 20106.

Infinity Ward Controversy

After the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in 2009, Jason West and Vince Zampella, CEOs and co-founders of CoD development studio Infinity Ward, were fired under mysterious circumstances. Infinity Ward and all CoD IP has been owned by Activision since 2003. Activision claims they were fired over “breaches of contract and insubordination”7.

West and Zampella filed a lawsuit against Activision, leveling at least two fraud claims against them. The claims said that in firing them, Activision “fired them to avoid paying millions of dollars in royalties for [Modern Warfare 2]”. On March 5th 2012, one of these claims was dismissed by the California Superior Court. May 7th is the trial date for the remaining claims8.

On March 26th, Robert Bowling, creative strategist for the CoD series, suddenly left Activision after six years as the public face of the brand, with no indication of why he left or where he was headed9. On April 24th, he revealed that he is starting a new, independent development studio called Robotoki. Their first project is slated for “next-gen” consoles (that is, game systems yet to be announced)10.

Release Schedule (2012)
Prototype 2 (Radical Entertainment) – April 24 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Diablo III (Blizzard Entertainment) – May 15 (PC, Mac OS X)
Battleship (Double Helix Games) – May 15 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS, DS)
The Amazing Spider-Man (Beenox) – June 26 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS Vita 3DS, DS)
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD (Robomodo) – July (PS3, Xbox 360)
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron (High Moon Studios) – August 28 (PS3, Xbox 360)
Skylanders: Giants (Toys For Bob) – Fall (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, PC 3DS, Mac OS X)
Call of Duty 9 [Working Title] (Treyarch) – Q4 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii U, PS Vita, 3DS)

Notes

  1. Curtis, Tom. “Activision Blizzard reports better than expected 2011 thanks to MW3, Skylanders”. Gamasutra.
  2. Rose, Mike. “Blizzard: Drop in WoW subs ‘attributable’ to Star Wars: The Old Republic”. Gamasutra.
  3. Caoili, Eric. “Blizzard cuts 600 employees in organizational shift”. Gamasutra.
  4. Curtis, Tom. “Activision CEO Bobby Kotick joins Coca-Cola’s board of directors”. Gamasutra.
  5. Hinkle, David. “Activision hires ex-Microsoft CFO Dennis Durkin”. Joystiq.
  6. Curtis, Tom. World of WarcraftCall of Duty accused of violating virtual worlds patent”. Gamasutra.
  7. Thorsen, Tor. “Top Infinity Ward devs fired for ‘insubordination,’ lawsuits ‘expected'”. Gamespot.
  8. Pettersson, Edvard. “Activision Wins Dismissal of One of Two Former Executives’ Fraud Claims”. Bloomberg.
  9. Navarro, Alex. “Robert Bowling Unexpectedly Announces He is Exiting Activision”. Giant Bomb.
  10. Reilly, Jim. “Robert Bowling Opens Game Studio”. Game Informer.

Picture Credits
http://www.videogameinvesting.com/?page_id=162
http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2012/02/16/bobby-kotick-joins-coca-cola-39-s-board-of-directors.aspx
http://www.giantbomb.com/infinity-ward/65-1526/all-images/52-201193/infinityward_1_/51-186905/

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