Activision Recommends Death For Bizarre

By Alec Meer on January 19th, 2011 at 7:06 pm.

Well, officially it’s “recommends closure,” but let’s not beat around the ruining-people’s-livelihoods bush here. Back in December, word arrived that Activision wanted to wash its hands of UK studio Bizarre Creations, the bunch behind Project Gotham Racing, Geometry Wars, The Club, Blur and 007: Bloodstone. While at the time that sounded an awful lot like shutting its still-recent (2007) acquisition down, they stressed that if they could find a buyer all may yet be well.

They didn’t find a buyer (or at least not one who offered enough, presumably). All is not well.

Activision exec Coddy ‘The Body’ Johnson (that nickname is, I stress, entirely fabricated by me, but c’mon – I couldn’t not type it once it had occurred to me) to Develop today that Activision had “explored a lot of leads – pretty much anyone you can imagine in the industry.

“But unfortunately, so far we’ve not been able to find any interested parties. So we’ve made as a last resort, a recommendation to the team for closure… I want to be clear, our first choice was to try and keep this group together and find a buyer for the studio.”

It’s not their fault at all! It’s all those naughty other companies who selfishly didn’t come and wave big cheques at them!

In fact, Activision have been incredibly considerate and lovely about the whole thing. I mean, get this:

“We of course care about this team. We’re offering the studio as many resources as possible, including counselling, external placement services and external career fairs.”

Right. Except “as many resources as possible” would surely also include “not shutting down a studio you can blatantly afford to keep open.”

It’s easy to jump to angry conclusions, but who knows what truths will yet out. Certainly, there’s much we don’t know yet. But is there really any fact or justification out there which can make us accept that a company which recently released the fastest-selling videogame of all time (Black Ops netting over $650 million in its first five days on sale alone) doesn’t have enough money to keep Bizarre going? And for heaven’s sake don’t look to Bloodstone as proof Bizarre are no good. I don’t for one second believe that was a game Bizarre chose to make.

It’s all about the bottom line, I’m sure. Bizarre have two recent quasi-flops on their hands in Blur and Bloodstone, plus there’s Bobby Kotick’s recent intimations that he wasn’t super-interested in making games in the UK unless there were government incentives to do so. That’s business.

Business is, in every sense of the word, bad.

__________________

« | »

, , .

109 Comments »

  1. Brumisator says:

    I thought they were dead already?

    Also, “they didn’t found a buyer” ???

  2. mandrill says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Bobby Kotick is a C**t. Did their acquisition of Bizarre include rights to their IP? Or is it simply a case of Blizztivision buying up small studios in order to run them into the ground and eliminate any threat of future competition?

    Woe betide Mr K if I meet him… ever. (Though I will go to enormous lengths to avoid such an encounter)

    • Wulf says:

      I wholeheartedly understand and quite vehemently share your… concerns.

      Blizzard I fell out of love with after Warcraft III, the whole Vivendi then Activision saga robbed them of any soul. Activision I haven’t liked since… well, what, ’00? They haven’t done anything I’ve actually been excited about in forever.

      So I’m very meh about Actard in general.

    • Memphis-Ahn says:

      I completely agree with Wulf, although I am slightly more vocal about it. I actively remind everyone on the Shack how Blizzard hasn’t made a good game since The Frozen Throne and how all this cock-gobbling is clouding their minds, but nobody understands.
      Poor Blizzard North, really.

      Here’s hoping Activision gets taken down a notch like EA has.

    • Thants says:

      Saying Starcraft 2 isn’t at least good is just trolling.

    • LyskTrevise says:

      The core of Starcraft 2 is good, but they really screwed up Battle.net. I think most people liked the way Battle.net was before SC2, and for me at least Battle.net was one of the main reasons to even play starcraft in the first place. There were plenty of great RTSs out at the time Starcraft came out, like Total Annihilation which were better or just as good. Battle.net made SC1 what it was, and they’ve stripped SC2 of that.

    • ChiefOfBeef says:

      Starcraft 2 isn’t good because the campaign is not as long as they said it would be in response to concerns over there not being three full race campaigns. Some of the missions are woefully short and can be completed in less than 10 minutes on normal difficulty.

      Battle.net 0.2 has been a catastrophic failure that even now insists on taking tens of seconds to load something as simple as a list of maps or a profile. The multi-player balance is non-existent and the move towards closed rather than an open system for community tools by not including LAN or cross-regional play as well as ActiBlizz demanding a slice of the pro-gaming pie means it isn’t going to have the South Korean following that defined Brood War.

      You’re trolling if you say it hasn’t been a disappointment.

    • Thants says:

      The single-player campaign is really quite long and involved. Yeah, you can speed-run it on one of the easier difficulties if you want, but that’s hardly a fair way to judge length. The story is fairly bad, but that’s another matter.

      Some parts of the new Battle.net are pretty bad, but it seems silly to call it catastrophic. Lack of Lan and cross-region play is really dumb, granted. And the interface for custom maps is really bad. I dunno, it seems pretty good to me otherwise. The matchmaking alone makes it more useful to me than the previously one.

      Saying things like the single-player is really short, and it isn’t well balanced in multi-player just seems like saying black is white. They’re just factually incorrect. If you know of and RTS with a much longer campaign or that’s better balanced I’d love to hear about it.

      edit:Honestly, if someone were offended enough by the removal of Lan and cross-region play that they were to boycott the game I couldn’t blame them, but that seems more to do with the principal of the matter. It doesn’t make all the other parts of the game bad.

    • opel says:

      @ChiefOfBeef It has been a disappointment.
      @Thants It is at least good.

      You’re trolling if you don’t agree with both statements.
      (Unless you are indifferent about Starcraft in general.)

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      “The multi-player balance is non-existent”

      what is this I don’t even

    • Nesetalis says:

      just to throw my two cents in.. i loved starcraft, and i looked forward to sc2. And then they ruined it. yes the singleplayer was a blast… even if the story and dialog was pisspoor, the gameplay was excellent..
      but they ruined it with battlenet.. i purchased it for multiplayer custom maps… i cant play custom maps except the top 10 which are mostly terrible and just stay popular because no one can find a game of anything but the top 10 :|

      this is ruined, great engine, great game, terrible implementation and infrastructure… i cant play the game i like, and the singleplayer is not made for replay value… thus, sc2 was ruined.

    • Zephro says:

      I have no strong opinion about SC2. But I only play these games for the single player and hearing all the complaints about the single player being a third of what it should be compared to Warcraft 3 I decided to give it a miss at £40. Also not on Steam.

    • TWeaK says:

      I’m indifferent about Starcraft in general. In fact, I can honestly say that Blizzard haven’t ever made a game I’m particularly interested in.

      As an aside, I had a quick look at Blizzard’s wiki and they haven’t made a game that wasn’t Warcraft, Starcraft or Diablo since 1995!

  3. Bhazor says:

    Well that really sucks.
    Well done Kotick. Sorry misspelled that.
    Fock yuu Kotick.
    Fotick

    • BAReFOOt says:

      A little help: “Kot” is German for “faeces”. So I read that as “poop tick” or “shit? ick!”, but “poop dick“ (Kot(d)ick) is also a choice. :)
      Then again I don’t know the man personally, so I leave the choice of words to you.

    • phuzz says:

      See? This is what I love about RPS, you get helpful people teaching you how to call someone a shitdick in German :)

      (on rereading this sounds sarcastic, it’s not. I’m genuinely pleased and planning new insults for my flamates)

  4. Wulf says:

    Loved them for PGR, fell out of love with them sometime after. Their best choice at the moment seems to be to close their studio and start up an independent – a new name, and perhaps a deal with someone like EA Partners. Something small just to get them on their feet.

    (Also, this is apparently not an RPS thing – this posting too fast. It’s a WordPress upgrade issue, other WP sites seem to have the same issue. Where you can go for hours, even days, without posting and the site will still insist that you’re posting too fast. Something is clearly broken there. Hopefully an upgrade soon will fix it.)

  5. DrazharLn says:

    Stories like this lend my boycott of ActiBlizzard games and services strength. If only they didn’t act like tossers all the time.

    • Wulf says:

      Yeah, it’s hard to support them or their games when this is the case.

      I have the same problem with Epic.

      I just… do people enjoy being treated like bitches in general? Is that it? Is it a deep-seated need to have someone make them their bitch? I’ve wanted to ask that question for a while.

      And if so, they’ve no shame about it at all. Whatever happened to dignity? Usually, if someone acts like a dick, what you do not say is ‘Please Sir, can I have another?’

    • Brumisator says:

      I don’t believe in boycotting.
      Even leaving aside the remote cases where it works, customers are just making themselves more miserable by not using products that they would normally enjoy, only to replace that with a possibly smug feeling of “doing the right thing”.

      Hey, maybe I’m a cynical whore, but at least I’m self-conscious.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Brumisator

      I have far more games than I have time to play them so it is a very rare game that would leave me ‘more miserable’ via avoiding it. Also “doing the right thing” is a big part of how I (and most people) get satisfaction out of life. “Boycotting” isn’t that different from simply making an informed choice based on a wide range of criteria – maybe the only difference is that you communicate your reasoning to others and aim to lobby the product provider or other consumers.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Well, I may download them, and not tell anyone. Or tell people that I download it as a punishment. That way I can play the games, and punish them at the same time. :)
      But usually it turns out I have no big interest in playing games of evil companies. Because with that evilness comes that behaviour where they only focus on the money, and the games stop being art. With EA for example, that difference is blatantly obvious.

    • Archonsod says:

      To be honest, I couldn’t give a crap whether the game is art or not, so long as it’s good. Which means I can ignore the output of Actard as I have done since …

      When was the last time Activision released a good game? Ghostbusters II, or was that Acclaim?

    • Brumisator says:

      If a game is something you’re barely interested in, it of course lowers the threshold tremendously, and I understand the idea behind “doing the right thing” being a force for good feelings and good overall, it’s just not for me.

      Piracy is not the answer for sending a message, imo.

      And was I going to boycott Starcraft 2 because actiblizzard is run by a C**t? Hell no.

    • Mattressi says:

      @Brumisator: I boycotted SC2 and will boycott Diablo 3 as well. Not only do I not want to support Kotick and Activision, but I also refuse to buy a multiplayer game that I can’t play offline LAN with my friends (especially when the reason I bought the original was for it’s LAN play). I told them on their forums that this was the case, got the usual diplomatic version of “we don’t give a damn” and so I followed through with what I said I’d do.

      I believe in capitalism. A free market is a great thing, where people can vote with their wallets to create as much change as they want. The only issue is that most people are idiots (how many people bitch and moan about big banks, but don’t switch to a smaller bank to make a point?). I don’t care that SC2 sold well, nor that D3 will sell well; I’m casting my vote regardless. If everyone that is displeased with the direction of Actard (nice name btw Wulf) boycotted their games, perhaps it’d make a difference. The problem is that all of them say “well, no one else will do it, so what difference would it make if I do?”. If everyone just boycotted Actard anyway, everyone would be doing it! Besides, on a personal (non activist) level, why would I pay for something when I really don’t approve of it? Sure, I’d REALLY like to be able to play SC2 and D3 for their gameplay, but I won’t put up with the rest of the crap. You surely wouldn’t buy your groceries from a known mass murderer, so is it really that absurd to have a little self control and not buy from someone you fundamentally disagree with and dislike (and don’t like the crap they put with their good games)?

      And please, no reductio ad absurdums: I’m not saying Kotick is (or is like) a mass murderer.

    • DOLBYdigital says:

      Well said TeeJay and Mattressi!
      It is ashame that so many people like to bitch about things but never follow through with actions. There are so many aspects in life that people complain about but then go and support it because of that self fulfilling prophecy mentality. It stretches from voting for gov’ts to voting with dollars and just about everything in between. I am slowly backing my beliefs but will admit that I still have a long way to go before I can truly feel good about myself :)

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      “I also refuse to buy a multiplayer game that I can’t play offline LAN with my friends”

      Seeing how you’re big on this activism thing, wouldn’t it make more sense to try and do something about the reasons LAN was removed in the first place?

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      I totally agree (on the ActiBlizzard Boycott) although, I Bought SC2 (out of interest really, doesn’t do a hell of a lot for me). And I bought CoD:MW2, but I haven’t bought CODBLOPS (They were made by Treyarch anyways eh?) and no “big” titles since, I have been purposely buying games like; ArmA 2.. Twice.., ArmA2O(and probably the DLC), Metro2033 – haven’t even installed it yet, and of course minecraft, also planning to buy IL2, DCS and another sim or some such.

      ..Thinking about it, I also bought BFBC2 recently—But it is quite good, and fun to play!

      So I am just going to buy Diablo3 (I owe it to myself, because I just spent too long in D2…Still playing it actually) and hopefully that’s it!

      I’ve managed to keep away from Ubisoft games though on a sidenote, I bought Silent Hunter 4 as it was only like 15$ in the shop, and doesn’t torture you with Dark Ages DRM. (I did alot of research before I bought it, and while everyone agreed that SH3 was better, I couldn’t find it, and yes I do not like buying it on the internets (steam etc)

    • Stompywitch says:

      I accidentally bought a ubisoft game for my DS at christmas; I’ve been scrubbing and scrubbing, but I still feel dirty :(

  6. Eclipse says:

    I hope they go indie, they’re very talented, maybe if they get rid of the marketing\pr assholes and form an indie team they can do great stuff

  7. rocketman71 says:

    Hey, that’s funny. I’d recommend death for Activision in a millisecond.

    And mental internment for Kotick. He could perhaps go work in that new church of Jack Thompson, I’m sure they’d quickly become friends. Same empty head and all that.

  8. msarge says:

    This is disappointing. While I never got really into any of their games, I don’t like that Activision is just closing down developers because they are not pumping out games that sell a hundred billion copies.

  9. Srekel says:

    Very sad. I was there for an interview just weeks (or perhaps a bit longer) before the first news about it shutting down came out. They all seemed very nice and were very interested in hiring me… *Phew* I consider myself lucky that I didn’t choose them.

    However, without giving any details, I definitely got a vibe of “Coming to work for this Activision company right now might not be the best idea”… :(

  10. TeeJay says:

    “Business is, in every sense of the word, bad.”

    I love playing games, I send best wishes to developers everywhere, but I am not sure I would want to invest my own money (not that I have much) in making games, in the hope that they would actually turn a profit.

    So I rely on business people to invest *their* money, and in the case of a plc with shareholders, the company directors are investing shareholder money … a lot of which comes from people’s pension funds. I might not much admire people obsessed with making money on a personal level but typically it is they, collectively, who provide me with a large array of products and services to choose from.

    • Maykael says:

      I agree with your main point, but I am thinking that Activision is going through a long spell of bad management whose mistakes have been solved by sacking, for lack of a better word, innocent developers like Bizarre.

      Under the pathetic guise of corporate austerity we see a publisher that fails to promote a good game (Blur) and that green-lights a game in a franchise nobody cares about in the games industry (tell me one good game that sold well in the Bond franchise besides GoldenEye!) and forces it upon a developer who hasn’t had a huge experience (the rather mediocre The Club) with action games (Bloodstone or whatever it’s called), dismantling the studio that created these games. Is the studio really to blame..? Or is Activision’s upper management composed only of people with the business sense of baboons that should be replaced.

      DJ Hero is not selling, Guitar Hero as a franchise is dead, there hasn’t been a good game in the Tony Hawk series in years and more recently they’ve green-lit a game in the True Crime franchise out of all the IPs Activision owns. Why are the developers to blame for incompetent management?

  11. Jake says:

    I’ve not kept up with the Project Gotham games since number 2, but I assumed they would be money spinners. PG2 at least, was fantastic – clearly Bizzare have talent.

  12. hamster says:

    Not really sure what the issue is. Studio doesn’t make money; portfolio isn’t part of the publisher’s vision; nobody wants to buy them…so they get shut down. This isn’t charity. You don’t just hang on to a studio that doesn’t fit the framework.

    On the other hand, buying up independent studios for the purpose of dissolving them to eliminate competition is probably, considering the publisher’s market share and other bits and bobs, anti-trust which is a criminal offence (tho current policy is to “prosecute” under the civil limb). It is also a serious allegation that should not be thrown around. I mean hey if you’ve got the evidence, go for it. S.2 of the Sherman Act. From what I remember, any party can file suit. Doesn’t even have to be a party with interest. But if you don’t then the closure should just be seen as a corporate decision that makes a lot of sense.

  13. abhishek says:

    But is there really any fact or justification out there which can make us accept that a company which recently released the fastest-selling videogame of all time (Black Ops netting over $650 million in its first five days on sale alone) doesn’t have enough money to keep Bizarre going?

    Sure they have enough money to keep the studio going. But why should they when Bizarre wasn’t making very good and/or profitable games? Their last hit was PGR3/Geometry Wars back in 2007.

    Since then, they got to make one game in a genre which was their forte, but it fell short of the standards set by Forza 3 on the 360 (where one could possibly imagine a resurrection of the PGR series) and racing games in general on all platforms. And then there was the Bond game…

    • Bhazor says:

      Thats three years. Many developers don’t make *any* games in three years.
      Also Blur rated well and sold terribly that shows fault with the publisher not the developer.

  14. Crimsoneer says:

    You’re jumping to angry conclusions.

    My local tescos now has 10 men in tills, and 20 electronic tills. Last year, it had 20 men in tills. Yes, I suspect when it brought in electronic tills, 10 of those men were fired. Yes, I’m relatively sure Tesco could “afford” to keep those men in a job. But frankly, they were doing a job I could perfectly well do myself, and adding to the cost of my final product. Keeping Bizarre open would have done just that – you can’t expect Activision to keep them open out of charity, in effect charging their shareholders, and thus we gamers, to keep a studio open they see no interest in.

    YOu want to keep Bizarre open? Find some venture capitalist, or another studio, or a philanthropist, make them the case why it’s profitable or useful, and buy them yourself. Don’t expect Activision to do it for you.

    • Colthor says:

      @Crimsoneer:
      Appropriate analogy; automated checkouts are also utterly, inexcusably awful.

      I swear they were designed by someone who’s never actually used a supermarket.

    • Lilliput King says:

      http://apps.metacritic.com/games/platforms/xbox360/blur

      Blur was well received critically, but sold poorly. The publisher is at fault. Activision is the publisher. What cost these people their livelihoods was inept management, not their ability to make good games. There is cause to be angry at Activision.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      “Blur was well received critically, but sold poorly.”

      And Fallout 3 got “Best Writing” at the GDCA, despite the writing being utter crap. So much for critics.

    • MartinNr5 says:

      @Colthor: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

      In the supermarkets I use (ICA in Sweden) they work like a charm and I can’t for the life of me understand why on earth anyone would like to stand in line in order to use a normal checkout.

      So don’t slam the idea, slam the implementation.

  15. HeroJez says:

    Recommend closure? Haha… I would be like: “Denied.. we have a contract… what do you want me to work on until that ends?” I guess that devil Kotick would counter with some proverbial banana skin, but those Bizarre chaps must have some protection from “WHY DONT YOU GUYS CLOSE!! HINT HINT” *cock gun trigger*.

    Did they ever get better than Geometry Wars? Perhaps they could make that for Facebook and get richer quick.

  16. Bilbo says:

    Pffft. Keep ‘em on, and stop shovelling horrible projects their way. Let them do their own thing, and then if that sucks, cut them loose. You can’t bin a studio for delivering crappy licensed games when crappy licensed games is all you’ll let ‘em make. The point that Activ can clearly afford to keep the studio going is definitely a valid one, and we know that they’ve done some quality stuff in the past, so why the penny-pinching?

    *side note*: Wow, I managed to write a disapproving comment about Activision without saying FAKK U BOBBY KODICK. Oh, and now I’ve gone and spoiled it. Arse.

  17. heretic says:

    Doing a Bond game was pathway to failure, none of them have ever been good except maybe Goldeneye.

    Activision killed the studio if they forced them to do the Bond game… how can execs still think a Bond game would be any good is beyond me…

    Was Blur an IP Bizzare created? Because of the flop the higher ups probably thought they should use the studio to do a “safe” bet like Bond, except Bond hasn’t been safe for a LONG time.

  18. Pantsman says:

    What really bugs me about this isn’t that they’re making people’s lives harder to satisfy their own short-sighted greed – megacorps will be megacorps, after all – but that they then try to disguise that fact by spouting feel-good bullshit like the statements Alec tears into. They obviously don’t care about the studio. We know it, they know it. The least they could do is not insult our intelligence by pretending otherwise.

  19. Mr_Hands says:

    I don’t know what game people who are saying Blur was bad played, but… I thought that game was, and IS, terrific.

    But that’s me. I don’t like driving games. Give me a driving game that doesn’t FEEL like a driving game, and then vomits neon-coloured powerups in my face every couple minutes and makes me FEEL LIKE A MOTHERFUCKING ROCKSTAR and I’ll follow you on bloody stumps across a desert of broken glass.

  20. Jason Moyer says:

    I played both Blood Stone and Black Ops and found the Bond game to be much much better than the latter. Actually, I enjoyed it more than the last Splinter Cell game, too. Bah.

  21. Jimbo says:

    No, business isn’t bad in every sense of the word. This is business operating how business is supposed to operate. Why should Activision keep operating one studio at a loss just because another studio is making “enough” money to carry both? So Bizarre can make even more games that nobody wants to buy? Even healthy businesses shouldn’t be expected to carry dead wood just because they can.

    Activision aren’t running a charity and they don’t owe anybody a living. They employ(ed) these guys to make games that people would want to buy, and they’ve now tried twice and failed spectacularly twice. So now -understandably if you ask me- Activision doesn’t want to employ them anymore. Activision have already lost *millions* buying and running this studio.

  22. Navagon says:

    Well it looks like good old Bobby Kotick gets to keep his title as The World’s Greatest Superhero.

    Sing it with me: “It’s Bobby. Bobby Kotick. He’s a great guy and not just a prick.

  23. Jimbo says:

    You should hire them to fix this fucking comment system.

    • Navagon says:

      I think RPS needs to ditch WordPress entirely and find a place in the tubes they can call their own.

    • Spacewalk says:

      It’s called Rock, Paper, Shotgun because you write your comments on a piece of paper, it gets held at gunpoint and successfully replying is like trying to get blood from a stone.

  24. sonofsanta says:

    Well that just plain sucks. They’ve been at this game for long enough, with enough decent games – nay, milestone games – that they surely deserve somewhat more of a chance than they seem to be getting.

    Given the back catalogue, in fact, it seems odd that no-one was interested; it could well be that Acti gave them no marketing on the good game, then gave them a crap game to make, then deliberately priced them out of the market when trying to sell them, thus forcing the closure for absolutely no reason at all. Which would be really dickish of them (and paranoid of me).

  25. fuggles says:

    Odd thing is that overall Blur got really good reviews, purely going by metacritic then they seem to have got 90 reviews with the occasional 70 that drags it all down. This is mirrored on all three systems, so its clearly a game that deserved to do well, although it possibly came out at the wrong time?

    • Navagon says:

      No, it came out through the wrong publisher who clearly forgot you’ve got to sell a game to make sales.

      Just like they forgot to market Raven games so people know they exist. Activision are a shit company and one that appears to be dying off quite rapidly. Lucky for them they’ve got Blizzard to prop them up… for the time being at least.

    • drewski says:

      It got decent reviews, but that doesn’t mean there’s a market for it. You could start writing a list of games that got over 80 Metacritic score and didn’t sell tonight and still be going next week.

      Not all of them are publishing failures. Everyone likes to blame Activision because they’re the big evil corporate flavour of the month, but sometimes a game doesn’t sell because nobody, relative to it’s budget, wants to play it. Even if it’s solid.

  26. Farsearcher says:

    I suggest whenever a company and/or person comes up with a dodgy reason for justifying something the article gets a “beacuase” tag.

    Hope the staff at Bizarre come out of this alright.

  27. Kevin says:

    “We of course care about this team. We’re offering the studio as many resources as possible, including counselling, external placement services and external career fairs.”

    This sounds an awful lot like the spiel people get when they get the news that they’re being laid off… and of course, months down the line they’re still on the dole.

  28. Okami says:

    This article and a lot of the comments radiate a certain naivety about economic and political issues. Activision is a publicly traded company and it’s execs must increase it’s profits, because the shareholders demand it. It doesn’t matter how much money they made on their latest CoD title, they are legally bound to make Activision as profitable as possible and if one of their studios keeps them from achieving their goals, they must get rid of it.

    If you are not happy with this situation you should not critizize individuals, no matter how high up in the food chain they might be, but the system of capitalism itself. We are all slaves to this system and must act according to it’s rules, no matter if we are workers in chinese sweat shop or the CEOs of international corporations.

    While it’s easy to hate individuals like Bobby Kotick, they are bound by the same chains that bind us (though theirs might be made from gold and silver and are attached to private jets complete with coke and hookers) it’s important to realize that he can’t not act the way he does. If it wasn’t Kottick, it would be someone else doing his job.

    The bottom line is all that matters in this system, not the artistic quality of the products or the quality of living of the employees.

    • Bret says:

      Here’s the thing:

      Kotick is the only one who’s this much of a cunt. Sure, system isn’t good. Fine.

      But when most of the system’s just baseline “bad” and Activision is cackling and feeding babies to Moloch, well, maybe you start to think it ain’t the system’s fault. It’s the fact Bobby Kotick is horrible, both as a human being and a businessman.

    • Maykael says:

      As I’ve stated above: It’s not the “evil” system of capitalism that’s the problem, it’s not the studio that’s not maximizing the shareholders’ fortunes, it’s the incompetence of Activision’s upper echelons of management and its marketing department.

      Let’s not blame a fuzzy word like capitalism instead of simple human stupidity.

    • Bhazor says:

      It may be the common thing for big publishers but when EA has more class you know you’re in trouble.

    • Navagon says:

      @ Okami

      For someone who claims to be so au fait with the workings of capitalist society, your overlooking the importance of actually marketing and distributing products sits in stark contrast to this. This responsibility falls to Activision, not Bizarre.

      So if Activision is required to appear to be making amends and resolving costly mistakes within their company to ensure a more profitable future then they should instead have fired the people at Activision responsible for failing both Raven and Bizarre.

    • Bhazor says:

      As I said above Blur was well received by critics (81% on Metacritic though I haven’t played it) but failed to sell. Bizarre Creations did their job they made a good game Activision marketed it poorly as a weird grown up Mario Kart game and pushed it out the same month as Split/Second and when GT5 hype was reaching its peak.

      As for Blood Stone? Well it’s completely average and would have probably got more attention if it hadn’t come out the same time as the new Golden Eye. Which to be fair was a far more interesting game.

    • drewski says:

      I don’t think there was ever a market for Blur, at least not a AAA budget market. You can blame marketing for a lot of things, but I don’t think any amount of marketing would have made Activision money because I suspect people, in general, aren’t interested in a game like Blur right now.

      Having a big marketing spend would, IMO, be sending good money after bad and the first rule of good business is write off your sunk costs and move on.

    • Subject 706 says:

      Publicly traded companies and creative arts do not always mix well. Especially not when the upper management are not actively interested in the games themselves, but only their potential profit, and as you say, slaves to their stock-holders. Valve for example, are not publicly traded.

    • Navagon says:

      @ drewski

      Whether or not there’s a market for such an action-driven arcade racer might be questionable. But I’m pretty sure there was a market for Raven’s games. Quite a firmly established market in fact. Yet Activision left them to die a slow death too.

    • drewski says:

      What have Raven released since the Star Wars games in 2003 that was genuinely good? A quick glance at their back catalogue reveals a couple of decent games “if you like that sort of thing” and a heap of shovelware.

  29. Tetragrammaton says:

    This article and a lot of the comments radiate a certain naivety about economic and political issues. Activision is a publicly traded company and it’s execs must increase it’s profits, because the shareholders demand it. It doesn’t matter how much money they made on their latest CoD title, they are legally bound to make Activision as profitable as possible and if one of their studios keeps them from achieving their goals, they must get rid of it.

    This. It is a constant shock to me how many reasoning, intelligent adults harbor such bombastically fatuous opinions when it comes to capitalism.
    The end of this rant certainly applies:

    • Jac says:

      @tetragrammaton: agree 100%. I am completely astonished by the majority of responses.

    • Wilson says:

      @Tetragrammaton – It’s because people don’t like that. Understandably, in a fair few cases.

    • Maykael says:

      I completely agree with you. It may be the fault of the constant bashing in the media in the last years of the wretched system of capitalism as the main blame for the economic crisis.

      “Oh noes! Capitalism has failed! Let’s all become left-wing!” I’d be okay with that if they would read Michael Waltzer or Rawls rather than inflammatory impostors like Zizek or Naomi Klein.

    • Bhazor says:

      Yes because any mention that maybe the free market and corporation’s aren’t perfect and you claim the speakers a socialist. Classy.

    • Maykael says:

      It was a short comment post and it wasn’t meant to be understood like that. I’m sorry if I seemed offensive in any way. I was just agreeing with Tetragrammaton’s opinion on the current bombastic take on The System’s failure that seems to have spread to even the most intelligent people I know.

      Corporations and the free market aren’t perfect, you are right. There is much need for a debate on the issues that our established rules for economic interaction are starting to raise in these new times (see how our current laws on intellectual property cripple creative environments).

      I completely agree that criticizing the current behavior of some corporations does not make you a socialist, as you say. Not that there would be any thing wrong with that. There is need for input from every side to attempt to right whatever’s wrong with our economies.

      I’d also like to point out that defending the free market automatically makes you a conservative hater of poor people in certain mediums. So there’s a lot of exaggeration on both sides.

    • HeroJez says:

      Well, if you think of it as us (gamers / game creators) versus them (megacorp) it’s probably quite natural.

      And it’s not like Bizarre have dug their own grave. Every games company has ‘flops’ now and again… Blur didn’t do exceptionally well, but I imagine it was the Bond stuff that really did the damage.

      Even so, you’re unlikely to find ultimate rationale here, despite the ‘je ne sais qois’ of RPS awesomeness. Perhaps there’s a bit of fanboy in all of us. And even if not for bizarre, then we must be united for companies that make decent games? And Bizarre have…?

      Just a thought… you know.. this isn’t a FT/shareholders forum. :)

    • DOLBYdigital says:

      I’m not saying I’m smart or know anything about economics or capitalism. However it appears that one of the main proponents of capitalism is that growth must continue. You have to keep getting bigger and bigger otherwise you are ‘failing’. If you make some money and hold that profit line, you are failing in the eyes of a capitalist system. This is how I see it and why I think capitalism doesn’t work over the long run. Sure it seems to be working now but I have a feeling we will see more ‘recessions’ and more serious issues in the future that are caused by the greedy teachings of capitalism.

      Again feel free to completely deconstruct my comment since I don’t really know what I’m talking about. This is just what my gut tells me and what I observe around me. I also hate the selfish and greedy nature of humans so maybe its us that make capitalism bad….. or more likely I am just a crazy wackjob that has no sense of reality. I’ll insult myself so it softens any blows one may try to land on me and ensures not many will even reply to me :)

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      @DOLBY Pure theory says you are right. Once you introduce reality, however, things start to look a little different. To put it simply, endless sustainable growth is impossible- There are innumerable geographic and sociopolitical variables which ensure that there are always ups and downs.
      That said, no system is future proof. But it is my opinion that the system we have at the present is close to the best of what is currently possible.
      Yes, it often reflects the worst of human nature, but the only way to rid any given system of this would be to expel all traces of that which is human.
      I for one would not wish to live in such a place.

    • drewski says:

      @ HeroJez – how many flops in a row are a studio allowed before you think they’ve “dug their own grave”?

      They’ve release two uncommercial games back to back, and presumably cost Activision an fair whack of cash in the process. Their main success in the past decade is a Xbox exclusive racer in a time when that style of racer is saturated. Maybe if PGR was multiplatform Activision would push it, but it’s not. Geometry Wars is another game effectively limited in market reach.

      I think it’s sad, but I can’t blame Activision for deciding their time is over. What’s the point of having them remake PGR over and over?

  30. Daiv says:

    @Wulf: John Romero thought so.

    He was tragically wrong.

    Edit: Reply fail :(

  31. Dances to Podcasts says:

    For someone so keen on franchises Kotick doesn’t seem very good at creating/maintaining them.

  32. dogvurt says:

    Cunty, Mc Cunt Cunt. yay

  33. Flappybat says:

    Frontier Developments has also laid off the development team for The Outsider. The studio still has other developers but it’s another blow to UK game development.

  34. TariqOne says:

    “It was just their way of having a bit of fun, the swines. Strange thing is they make such bloody good cameras.”

  35. Windward says:

    What I have come to realise is that the base line for game technology that is ‘good enough’ and cheap enough, and with relatively progressive distribution like Steam, has reached the point that gamers can tell abusively profiteering publishers like Activision to fuck off, and not loose anything.

    I’m not boycotting Activision, although the idea is appealing! because Kotick seems to be a grade a ‘Poop Dick’, but I’m just not buying any of their games because compared to Rock of Ages, Solium Infernum, AI war, Braid, VVVVV etc, they are absurdly expensive and blandly bland. A company that goes about business in the way Activision is currently, will never be capable of making anything as interesting, inventive and full of unique character as the indies we have now, so I would rather go backwards in time and commiserate with Bizarre for having been bought by Activision in the first place than for being closed down now. Other posters have talked about Capitalism, and I think it is somewhere between terrible and brilliant (although probably the best we can do!), but Gamers are beginning to ‘own the means of production’, and for this reason the future of fun is in the best of good hands.

    Kotick is spouting this cack about just iterating sequels to make hundreds of millions, but the world of computers and the world of culture are both constant maelstroms of change and progress, sometimes for a few years the storm abates just long enough to make conservative moneymakers eyes light up with the idea that they might be able to exercise their one good quality in life, being irredeemably dull, to make a fortune for themselves, but the tides of ingenuity and endeavour will flow back and drown them.

    I’m just sad that by the time everybody else realises this and Activision does crash into the ground, the men at the top, like Kotick who caused it all will have their revolting nest eggs and be well on the way to decrepitude grinning to themselves about what a good high score they got in the game of life.

    Well fuck them, I’m not playing for the score.

    (Ps. Sorry I forgot to list Minecraft, I shall flagellate myself later master!)

  36. Dominic White says:

    I’d just like to point out that Activision were publishing two James Bond games alongside each other. I only seldom play on my Wii, but I knew tons about Goldeneye, as they were promoting it at every opportunity. It was well marketed, was in peoples minds at launch, and sold well.

    I didn’t even know Blood Stone existed until the day it launched, and had no idea that Bizarre were working on a Bond game, either. To say that it was under-marketed is an understatement. Saying that Bizarre sank because they made a game that didn’t sell is overlooking a huge part of this mess – Activision basically stealth-released the game, almost expecting (wanting?) it to sink without a trace.

  37. Meat Circus says:

    Activision in “not a charity” shocker.

    Whether or not Activision can “afford” to keep them going is neither here nor there. Why would anyone expect a profit-making firm to throw good money after bad to support an underperforming studio?

    I am a little bit taken aback by Alec’s rage. Does he know somebody who works there?

    • adamiani says:

      Indeed, Meat Circus.

      I make games for a living, I don’t like seeing developers close at all. But it’s not like it doesn’t happen with astonishing regularity. Why is Alec getting apoplectic about THIS one?

  38. bill says:

    Can I (once again) go on record that i totally don’t understand this continual cycle of buying developers and then shutting them down. Aren’t the publishers wasting a huge amount of (a) money (b) talent (c) time (d) experience and (e) resources each time they do this?

    With one or two extreme exceptions, game studios only seem to be as good as their last game. But that also goes the other way, a studio who;ve made nothing but rubbish could easily next make an awesome game. So basically, past performance seems to be very little indicator of talent.

    Bizarre (as the current example) have made some great games. They’ve also made some flops. But does that mean their next game won’t be great? Success or failure seems much more down to what the publishers give them to make, and how they support it, than the individual team’s skill.

    Even if we assume that there’s some kind of problem at bizarre (management skill or something), surely it’s more cost effective for Activision to FIX THAT PROBLEM than to disband the whole team, and then in a few months buy the teams that the ex-members of Bizarre create.

    Which we all know is what is going to happen…
    (or is there some sneaky hidden advantage for publishers in continually buying studios, shutting them down, then buying the same employee’s next studio, etc… ?)

  39. groovychainsaw says:

    It makes me sad, I loved the project gotham games ever since metropolis street racer (dreamcast!), PGR4 didn’t sell very well for microsoft and they felt they didn’t need an in-house ‘arcade’ racing team any more, even though they had the best non-sim racer on the market. Bizzarre’s attempts to branch out from ‘racing’ were slightly weak with The Club (which was entertaining, but suitable as a concept or downloadable title, not a £40 game).

    At this point, microsoft made the decision to sell, activision were probably hoping that there was enough talent for a decent racing game there and to punt out a 3rd person licensed title or two as well. Their fall was less about bond doing badly (which was to be expected, they rush those titles through the production line and bizzarre didn’t have the pedigree yet), but more about blur doing badly, which activision would have expected to be the strength of the studio.

    There were several problems with blur, IMHO. One was trying to create a ‘realistic’ kart racer, which is a weird hybrid. Graphically and in all the adverts + trailers it looked very derivative, dark, wet and ‘grimy’, too, lacking the arcade polish that had made the PGR games look so good. The marketing was poor by activision, and i’m sure this closure of the studio is covering the blushes of one of their marketing suits by blaming the game instead. Some of the online social stuff was unique and original (one of the overlooked things with bizarre is how much they pushed these features on xbox live, mass leaderboards, challenges etc. all came out of the PGR and geometry wars series), and now has been polished and near-perfected by EA with hot pursuit.

    Importantly, on release they came out a few weeks after split second on the consoles, which also did arcade racing, but had you detonating huge sections of the track as you went round (a bit more original than the ‘boost’ or ‘red shell’ power ups) whilst looking a bit more sunny/arcadey, like burnout. Certainly the rival appealed to me more than blur (and I had played the ‘beta’ of blur), and coupled with a slightly quieter release window (august i think?) in the run up to the big xmas releases, the splitting of the (already reduced) arcade racing fans, the sales failure was not too much of a surprise. I knew it was struggling when i saw the price drop about £15 after 3-4 weeks.

    Still, I’m saddened, as with PGR we had one of the great racing franchises from a top british team and its shocking how quickly they have gone from ‘top of their game’ to being closed. Capitalism is a harsh mistress, Activision made a poor investment, weren’t willing to back it up with enough support and then cast it adrift when it didn’t work. It is the nature of business, but business, as Alec says, is harsh sometimes. Hopefully the devs will bounce back with a new, small studio and get back to producing great games once again, I’m confident they have it in them.

    • PoLLeNSKi says:

      Split-second! Thank you, I was racking my brain to try and remember….there were double page comparisons in magazines due to the similar timing and similar themes of gameplay. Every single one that I read sidled more on the side of Split Second suggesting it was more unique rather than being a grown up Mario Car

  40. hamster says:

    I think it’s kind of problematic that we’re having these kind of news stories with a very obvious anti-establishment stance. Calling Kotick an ass is one thing but this is just a whole new level of hippy. It’s sorta like of e-pirates complaining about the concept of intellectual property.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>