Oh, you two. I’m unsure whether the endless spat between two of the world’s biggest games publishers is healthy. With Activision currently occupying the coveted Most Hated spot at the top of the publishing ladder, once so impressively held by EA, you can see why there’s rivalry. “We’ve sacked another entire dev team! Take that!” “Well then! We’re going to cancel a game people were really looking forward to!” And so on. Currently the battle is over the world-dominating presence of Call Of Duty, and EA’s belief that plucky Battlefield can depose it. Slap! Pinch!
Back in April cheeky-chops EA CEO John Riccitiello announced that Battlefield 3, launching later this year against Modern Warfare 3, is “designed to take that game down.” He compared it to a battle between Google and Microsoft, or the Red Sox vs the Yankees. Then boasted that hundreds of millions of dollars of marketing would be going into both games. Meanwhile, two-thirds of the world’s population don’t have access to clean drinking water.
Activision have now hitched up their skirts and waded into the mud pit. “I think EA might talk about our games in the press more than we do,” says Activision’s publishing CEO, Eric Hirshberg, who looks like he should be in Mad Men. “So, the first thing I say to them is ‘Thanks for the assistance in building awareness.’” Burn!
“We don’t pay much mind looking at what the competitors are doing,” he told MCV, while talking about what his competitors are doing. “I know they are focused on us… well that’s all I’ll say.” Presumably because the rest was tacit.
But to be fair to Hirshberg, he goes on to be very positive.
“This is one of the most competitive genres in one of the most competitive industries. Last year we had Halo: Reach and Medal of Honor, and it’s not like they weren’t amazing developers gunning for the top of this mountain either. And it’s the same this year – Gears of War is back along with lots of other games. So, of course, we take all the competition really seriously. But at the end of the day I really mean it when I say we are focusing on the finish line, not the competition. We are making the best game we can, and are throwing every resource, innovation and all the creativity we can at it. And hopefully that will maintain our position.”
It must be confusing to not pay much mind to what the competitors are doing while taking them really seriously, but that’s the sort of thing a CEO has to worry about, not us. But it’s good to hear him honouring the talent of the opposition.
Of course, Riccitiello’s claims are a touch optimistic. The chances of BF3 toppling MW3 – a game whose prequel, by his own admission, made $400m in revenue on its first day of sales – are extremely unlikely. Especially when Activision could do a poo in a box labelled “Call Of Duty”, charge £450 for it with DRM that kills your pets, and still come in number one. But is the battle healthy for anything else? Clearly both games will make money, and will likely make more money than even an advertising budget that dwarfs the development costs. Would they make similar amounts of money if they advertised it normally, rather than etching the game’s name with lasers into the moon? I imagine they probably would. Money that could then be invested into other more interesting projects that aren’t about following other people around as they shoot soldiers in the face.