Bobby Kotick Doesn't Mean to Come Off as "a Dick"

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Bobby Kotick Doesn't Mean to Come Off as "a Dick"

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At a keynote presentation during DICE 2010, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick discussed his reputation as the industry's Darth Vader and said that he felt it wasn't really deserved.

If you took the average hardcore gamer (you know, the sort that follows all the news and reads sites like this one) and asked them who their three least favorite gaming-related people were, it's a safe bet that you'd probably wind up with the following three: Michael Atkinson, Jack Thompson, and Bobby Kotick. It's a bit of a strange juxtaposition, seeing as how two of the three are fervent anti-game advocates while the third is the head of the largest videogame publisher in the world, but there's no denying that Activision CEO Kotick is seen by many as gaming's "big bad."

In keeping with recent attempts to try and soften his image, though, Kotick took the stage at DICE 2010 to discuss his reputation in the industry and some of the remarks he'd made in the past, reported Gamasutra. Recounting his history as a developer of Apple II for companies like EA as far back as 1983, Kotick said that he'd been thrilled as a gamer to take over Activision two decades ago: "These were properties that I really had a great affection for... [and there was a] great amount of opportunity, both financially and creatively."

Unfortunately, as Activision swelled to become an industry giant, Kotick admitted that he'd had to divorce himself from the development process - that he "can't really get too involved" in individual games, since he needs to keep the big picture in mind. But that lofty perch as overlord has its downsides, too: "When you're 50,000 feet above what's going on... you get insulated from that creative passion," admitted Kotick, who said that not being as engaged as he could be with the people who were making the games under his banner had cost him - and the very shareholders he'd been attempting to please - some incredible opportunities.

In particular, Kotick named the sale of Will Wright's Maxis as a mistake, because he and Activision executives had never even taken a look at Wright's work on Jefferson - better known to all of us as The Sims. He also admitted that Activision had backed the wrong side in the Guitar Hero wars by purchasing RedOctane in 2006. "We knew about Harmonix... [who had] lots of good ideas, but nothing that was really commercially viable," said Kotick. If he and Activision had offered something to the Boston-based music studio that went on to make Rock Band, things might have turned out differently.

But beyond the successes and failures as Activision has grown, Kotick isn't sure when he became such a villain. While he'd always thought of himself as a Luke Skywalker figure or Han Solo flying the Millennium Falcon, "suddenly I wake up and I'm on board the Death Star," he joked before the crowd. Kotick addressed at least one of his infamous remarks - saying he wanted to take the fun out of game development - and defended it as being something he'd said "in a humorous way" to assure would-be investors that the company wasn't the sort of "Wild West" culture that had been the downfall of Doom creator John Romero's IonStorm.

Kotick regretted that he'd come off in such a way, but said that that kind of brash, glib off-hand remarks made it easy to "come across as being like a dick".

Still, the Activision boss attempted to set the record straight - as he saw it - saying that the passion in game development was something that was important to him. To support that, Kotick announced that Activision would be sponsoring an "independent video game competition" worth $500,000 to reward small developers "using new platforms and technologies" in the hopes of finding and promoting new "super-compelling and engaging" titles.

I'm going to go out and say it: I honestly don't mind Bobby Kotick in the way that many gamers do. Yes, sometimes he comes off as a bit of a Darth Vader figure, but that's part of his job, and I think the gaming community has a tendency to vilify him and paint him as more evil than he actually is. Brash, dick-ish statements or no, I think he's necessary in the industry.

And hey, giving $500,000 to aspiring independent developers never hurt anyone.

Update: Now we have video of the keynote! Thanks, G4!

(Via Edge)

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I think most of the backlash against Kotick came from the "Focus on Sequels" angle he played up last year... as well as the earlier purchase/merger with Vivendi that led to the effective cancellation of Brutal Legend (until EA picked it up). Nothing will make gamers hate you more than buying a company working on a game you're anticipating and then canceling said game.

Then again Brutal Legend was a huge disappointment to me (don't like RTS's, don't like Melodrama and don't like Metal enough to make up for those other two, it was a triple threat) so my opinion might be... biased?

Kotick can't seriously believe that his statements have made him out to be anything but the Victor Von Doom of video games.

The guy literally said he wanted to take all of the fun out of making games. Something fundamentally designed to be fun. It would be like if Santa Claus whipped his elves.

He also wants to see games increase in price ina weakened economy.. that one I can't really blame him for, he is CEO, but he has to know how it seems to joe everyman who has to choose between eating and playing MW2.

There's more, but that paints a pretty good picture of him as someone who 1) you wouldn't want to cross, and 2) a major dick, at least in a professional sense.

I don't hate the man though. Don't even hate Jack Thompson... Thompson is ill-informed, and his methods are sketchy, but I agree with him on a fundamental level - kids shouldn't play GTA. We get that. We've known that for ages. Not because it'll turn them into killers, but kids need to be kids.. let that adult stuff be a mystery to them, to be slowly unlocked through the passage of time.

Michael Atkinson, it's hard to hate as I live on the other side of the world to him, but he seems to have worked himself into a little paranoia bubble that's quite interesting.

I'm mostly just pissed at him for trying to block the release of Brutal Legend. There was no reason whatsoever for that. If it wasn't for that I wouldn't have given 2 shits about the guy.

*finds hurling bag after 20 minutes of laughing*

SERIOUSLY? hes like, one of the biggest jerks in the industry. i remember him talking about removing all kinds of fun from video games, and now he wants to fill our ears with this soothing propaganda?

Jesus Christ, Bob...

I don't think this guy really deserves to be lumped in with Atkinson and Thompson. That's needlessly cruel. You may not like his business decisions, but that's what they are. Business decisions. And while Activision is unlikely to relive the glory days it once knew in the Atari era. (They made Pitfall...Pitfall!) It's a business, you know. It's not like he's suppressing human rights or kicking puppies.

I had honestly forgotten that we were supposed to hate this guy...you know, thanks to Michael Atkinson, FOX news, and whatnot...

Additionally, I never really saw him as the "Darth Vader" of the gaming industry, he was more like one of those evil executives from RoboCop. Still, it's all water under the bridge now (he has Ubisoft to thank for that).

Is it true? Has Scrooge discovered the true meaning of Christmas?

An x-prize in game development seems like a good idea to me. We need more of those going on for many things.

I'm still not hanging his picture up on my wall.

Altorin:

Michael Atkinson, it's hard to hate as I live on the other side of the world to him, but he seems to have worked himself into a little paranoia bubble that's quite interesting.

Despite also living on the other side of the world, I have found a reason to dislike Atkinson, it's because he's a gawdem fascist who wants to control even what consenting adults consume because he believes it degenerates morality, family values, (insert crazy right wing buzz word here) etc.

I don't dislike him, I think he's a pretty good boss. He's just very bad with phrasing his points. As he said, he's the CEO, he isn't in on the fun of the games, he has to make sure the business is afloat.

PedroSteckecilo:

Altorin:

Michael Atkinson, it's hard to hate as I live on the other side of the world to him, but he seems to have worked himself into a little paranoia bubble that's quite interesting.

Despite also living on the other side of the world, I have found a reason to dislike Atkinson, it's because he's a gawdem fascist who wants to control even what consenting adults consume because he believes it degenerates morality, family values, (insert crazy right wing buzz word here) etc.

he's the only one I have a real issue with, you're right, and that's just because he actually has power. Kotick is just a CEO acting CEO-y, and Thompson is a disbarred Lawyer acting all Lawyer-y.

But Atkinson is an Attorney-General acting all Attorney-Generally, and he's got much more sway then Kotick and Thompson combined (probably not as much money though. Kotick is quite literally a rich son of a bitch.)

CrazyHaircut94:
I don't dislike him, I think he's a pretty good boss. He's just very bad with phrasing his points. As he said, he's the CEO, he isn't in on the fun of the games, he has to make sure the business is afloat.

I wouldn't call him a good boss.. that implies he would be good to work for. I don't think that's the case at all. He's just a CEO doing his job. I would hate to work for him (excepting of course I'd get to work in the games industry, but even that probably sucks)

Every time I hear his name I hear Darth Vaders theme song....and dogs barking.

Altorin:
Kotick can't seriously believe that his statements have made him out to be anything but the Victor Von Doom of video games.

The guy literally said he wanted to take all of the fun out of making games. Something fundamentally designed to be fun. It would be like if Santa Claus whipped his elves.

He also wants to see games increase in price ina weakened economy.. that one I can't really blame him for, he is CEO, but he has to know how it seems to joe everyman who has to choose between eating and playing MW2.

There's more, but that paints a pretty good picture of him as someone who 1) you wouldn't want to cross, and 2) a major dick, at least in a professional sense.

Agreed. That said, if he's been payed CEO wages, why is he incapable of realising that MAYBE customers wouldn't be thrilled by saying the things he says.

I don't hate the man though. Don't even hate Jack Thompson... Thompson is ill-informed, and his methods are sketchy, but I agree with him on a fundamental level - kids shouldn't play GTA. We get that. We've known that for ages. Not because it'll turn them into killers, but kids need to be kids.. let that adult stuff be a mystery to them, to be slowly unlocked through the passage of time.

Michael Atkinson, it's hard to hate as I live on the other side of the world to him, but he seems to have worked himself into a little paranoia bubble that's quite interesting.

What I dislike about both Jack Thompson and Atkinson is they both believe that the only way to prevent kids from getting mature games is to ban them outright. Or ban them through the backdoor.

Doug:
What I dislike about both Jack Thompson and Atkinson is they both believe that the only way to prevent kids from getting mature games is to ban them outright. Or ban them through the backdoor.

Agreed. My issues with atkinson OVER thompson, is I think I could probably have a conversation with thompson about games. He doesn't seem to hate gamers. He might not trust us, he might think we've all been poisoned by the GTA, but he doesn't hate us.

I'm sure Atkinson does.

Altorin:
The guy literally said he wanted to take all of the fun out of making games. Something fundamentally designed to be fun.

I never thought game designing was meant to be fun.
Game playing, sure. That's suppose to be fun.
But designing? It's a job like anything else. Some guys might love it and have a blast, but it's still work. Not every debugger is going to be wearing a huge grin while plowing through page after page of code trying find the fix for that stupid bug.

I don't really mean to play devil's advocate, but maybe he's right in that regard. Take the game designing seriously, as serious work, and maybe you'll have less of a shoddy product on your hands. I don't know if that's what he meant when he said that, but it makes sense to me.

Altorin:

Doug:
What I dislike about both Jack Thompson and Atkinson is they both believe that the only way to prevent kids from getting mature games is to ban them outright. Or ban them through the backdoor.

Agreed. My issues with atkinson OVER thompson, is I think I could probably have a conversation with thompson about games. He doesn't seem to hate gamers. He might not trust us, he might think we've all been poisoned by the GTA, but he doesn't hate us.

I'm sure Atkinson does.

Well, not sure about Thompson; I think he's abit more of an attention whore. But yeah, Atkinson hates us with a passion that makes me wonder if a gamer ran over his kids or something.

I don't get where all the hate is coming from for Kotick. The whole Brutal Legend thing wasn't really his direct intention (He didn't really think "Hey there, Vivendi has a game. Let's merge and stop it from being released quickly", I presume.)

It seems like a lot of the anger is simply because they can put a face to Activision. They can think of what Activision as a whole has done wrong, and put that to Kotick, due to him being CEO. I find it hard to hate on EA a lot, simply because their 'leaders' are less public than most. (Also, EA have recently toned down the dickometer reading a bit).

Well, I've just come back from a 2 hour XKCD random marathon, watched the greatest Boom De Ah Da Discovery adverts and spoofs, so i can't show any real anger or smarmy criticism. The world just doesn't work that way.

All I can say is that you Activision, let your shackles off Treyarch, let them do what they want, give Tim Schaefer a hug and an apology, and then, just to make everyone feel better, keep RRP down to where they should be. Then you may just become someone like... C3-PO. Start out small, and build yourself up to Luke and Han, and maybe, just maybe, you could become as awesome as Chewbacca.

This post was made in an entirely straight face and should be read as such.

As if he actually believes the bullshit that comes from his mouth. Kotick is a smart man, and probably the biggest industry troll I've seen in a while.

I think Admiral Ackbar said it best. It's a trap! 8)

Baby Tea:

Altorin:
The guy literally said he wanted to take all of the fun out of making games. Something fundamentally designed to be fun.

I never thought game designing was meant to be fun.
Game playing, sure. That's suppose to be fun.
But designing? It's a job like anything else. Some guys might love it and have a blast, but it's still work. Not every debugger is going to be wearing a huge grin while plowing through page after page of code trying find the fix for that stupid bug.

I don't really mean to play devil's advocate, but maybe he's right in that regard. Take the game designing seriously, as serious work, and maybe you'll have less of a shoddy product on your hands. I don't know if that's what he meant when he said that, but it makes sense to me.

i really cant see how you cant develop a game while working unseriously. i dont know if this is exactly unserious, but the Executive Producer of Dante´s Inferno actually brought his 18 month old son to the studio, and with his help, they made the animations for the Unbaptized Babies. and do you know what the kid was doing to make those animations? he was just running around randomly with those motion-detector suits on.

i think thats quite the prestige for a barely-knowing child.

Baby Tea:

Altorin:
The guy literally said he wanted to take all of the fun out of making games. Something fundamentally designed to be fun.

I never thought game designing was meant to be fun.
Game playing, sure. That's suppose to be fun.
But designing? It's a job like anything else. Some guys might love it and have a blast, but it's still work. Not every debugger is going to be wearing a huge grin while plowing through page after page of code trying find the fix for that stupid bug.

I don't really mean to play devil's advocate, but maybe he's right in that regard. Take the game designing seriously, as serious work, and maybe you'll have less of a shoddy product on your hands. I don't know if that's what he meant when he said that, but it makes sense to me.

Do you remember his language? the words he said? I don't remember them verbatim, but they were scary.

Like in an evil supervillain type of scary

and I disagree with your assertion that game development shouldn't be fun. I mean, it can't be ALL fun and games, I'll concede that, but to suck ALL the fun out of it (I'm almost positive he used those words), and instill a regiment based on fear.. No.

If you're good at something, and enjoy doing it, you should be allowed to have fun while doing it. Whatever you do. The ideal is that if you design games, then you love games, and you realize that even when what your doing isn't necesarily fun, the fact that you're in a creative field that you love, that should be fun.. or something. In another post I mentioned cottage cheese brain.

All work and no play makes altorin a dull boy.

[quote="John Funk] If he and Activision had offered something to the Boston-based music studio that went on to make [I]Rock Band[/I], things might have turned out differently.[/quote]I'm sure that Rock Band would have turned out exactly the same way that Guitar Hero has, if Activision had bought it. We'd probably be up to Rock Band 4, and Rock Band Beatles would be accompanied by Rock Band [insert 3 other band names].

Honestly though, I do think Kotick gets a bit too much flak for what he does. He is one of the seniors of the gaming industry and is responsible for many great games coming to fruition, but unfortunately he's become more of a Peter Molyneux than a Miyamoto in my opinion.

I can see where he's coming from. I definitely understand the position he's in. Being so high up, he can't afford to focus too much on the gritty details. It's an unfortunate truth that the larger any company gets, the less human it seems (by human I mean in the sense of personal interraction with customers and even their own employees).

Sporky111:
Honestly though, I do think Kotick gets a bit too much flak for what he does. He is one of the seniors of the gaming industry and is responsible for many great games coming to fruition, but unfortunately he's become more of a Peter Molyneux than a Miyamoto in my opinion.

At least Molyneux cares for his games and works with the developers. If Activison published any of his stuff we would have Populous 18, Black and White 7, and Fable 5 would be coming out soon.

Zer_:
I can see where he's coming from. I definitely understand the position he's in. Being so high up, he can't afford to focus too much on the gritty details. It's an unfortunate truth that the larger any company gets, the less human it seems (by human I mean in the sense of personal interraction with customers and even their own employees).

Riccietello makes EA seem a lot more human.

In that it fails.

Pretty Hardcore.

PedroSteckecilo:

Altorin:

Michael Atkinson, it's hard to hate as I live on the other side of the world to him, but he seems to have worked himself into a little paranoia bubble that's quite interesting.

Despite also living on the other side of the world, I have found a reason to dislike Atkinson, it's because he's a gawdem fascist who wants to control even what consenting adults consume because he believes it degenerates morality, family values, (insert crazy right wing buzz word here) etc.

just be glad you dont have to deal with stephen conroy then hes like Atkinson only about the world not just games.

his plan is to filter out anpything that doesnt comply with australian law from the internet (which will lead us down a slippery slope of abuse) and hes not far off from getting to the point where he succeds(of course this is by ignoring just about everyone saying no dont do that you fuckwit)

the idiot still thinks he can get google to follow Australian laws even tho its an international company and the laws that he wants to impose on them could be done on this side but will cause his internet filter to slow things down to much

google just counter argue that it shouldnt have to take on a govts policies when they already have a method in place to censor other things and thats its not there Job to make the Govt look good by helping them avoid the negative backlash agaisnt something google is against

Bobby Kotick is evil because he makes too many sequels, in gamer's eyes. Which I think is a silly reason to think that someone's evil (might as well hate every producer in Hollywood), but whatever.

Also, he is vilified for looking at the bottom line, the profit margin. News flash: He's a CEO. That's his job. His job is to make sure his company is making money at a steady rate. And he is doing well with that. Is that the issue, perhaps? That gamers dislike him for being more business-minded than, say, Gabe Newell?

Yes Bobby we all know that now you want us to buy new guitar hero and other games so you can keep investors happy. But this still won't save your reputation for being the biggest dick in history of human kind.

More sequal is a good for company but the problem is to much sequal and salles go rock bottom very quickly. See music game first it was a strong entry, but 4-5 music game a year destroyed all interest into it.

Bobby Kotick is the worst CEO as he is destroying existing IP. If you make to much sequal then people will loose interest. Just like with food if you eat the same meal every day you will get sick of it and stop eating it and this is the same with game. First I like guitar hero but after the third one I lost interest and the same goes for a lot of there IP.

I do sort of love the picture

he's holding a guitar controller, with a grin on his face that just says to me "You bought like a billion of these things? lol."

Bobby Kotick not wanting to sound like dick...the guy said he wanted to RAISE the prices of games and "take the fun out of games"...um that is dickish behavior Mr.Kotick.

From what I can see, we're currently moving to the next stage of the "Evil Overlord" publisher cycle. 5/6 years back, EA were hated by gamers for the position on top, and Activision and Ubisoft were the 2 smaller publishers that were the resistance against EA's mighty regime.

Now it's Activision on top as the Evil Overlord, but it seems the tide is turning and with Ubisoft's recent DRM decisions, they are looking to be in a strong position to be the next Publisher we love to hate, while Activision will end up like EA are now, smaller but better liked for it.

And then the cycle will repeat, ad infinitum. It is the way of us gamers. We've got to hate someone!

Only fund games that have the potential to be exploited with sequels (think he said something about doing sequels every year).
Avoids original/risky IP.
Said he'd raise the price of games with expensive controllers (e.g. Guitar Hero) if he could.
Would raise the RRP of all games in a heartbeat.
the whole "take all the fun out of making video games." thing.
Has no interest in the creative growth of the medium.

Anything else?

Well I suppose he isn't actually consciously trying to be a bastard, rubbing his hands together and cackling evilly as he schemes over his next plan to squeeze more blood from the gullible masses with the next boring sequel. And he DOES have a point, it was the glamorisation of game developers that led to the massive Ion Storm Fiasco which gave us Daikatana and ruined John Romero's career. But this doesn't change the fundamental fact that he clearly stated he aims to make gaming as bland, homogenous, repetative, uncreative and EXPENSIVE as he possibly can, making us pay more for more of the same stuff we already own. Saying he "doesn't mean to come off as a dick" is like saying to someone "you're a shitgargling assfucker... no offence meant, of course". Words alone don't make up for actions.

The independant game competition sounds like a nice idea though... until you realise Activision is just going to use it to identify impressive new talent, buy them up and force them to make bland sequels to whatever clever IP they can create.

I can understand his position enough. He was a game developer himself after all. Suddenly he's a company CEO and doesn't get to be in the middle of all that creativity and programming. Instead he has to balance budgets, deal with stockholders, and all those things that lack fun and creative expression.

I'd rather be down there with the developers and art department too.

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