Kotick Tells His Side of Brutal Legend Story

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Kotick Tells His Side of Brutal Legend Story

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The tangle of lawsuits surrounding the release of Brutal Legend meant that Activision was unfairly cast as a villain, says CEO Bobby Kotick.

The tussle over who had the rights to publish Double Fine's heavy-metal inspired Brutal Legend was an ugly episode, and one that earned Activision no small amount of negative PR. As is so often the case in the business world, the dispute was over money, but according to Kotick, not in the way that Double Fine and EA let people believe.

When Activision merged with Vivendi to become Activision Blizzard, it dropped a few of Vivendi's projects, including Brutal Legend. When EA picked up the game, Activision responded with a lawsuit, not because it didn't want anyone else playing with its toys, even the ones it had discarded, but because Double Fine owed Vivendi money. Kotick explained that Vivendi had advanced Double Fine somewhere between $15 million and $20 million for Brutal Legend, and when Double Fine signed the deal with EA, Vivendi's successor wanted that money back.

"Unbeknownst to everybody," Kotick said, "[Double Fine] didn't have the rights to sell. So all we'd said is, 'Look: If you go and do a deal with somebody else, pay back the money that was advanced to you.' That was all we were looking for. We ultimately got a fraction of the money that had been advanced to [Schaffer], and as far as I know, that was the end of it."

He added that the decision to drop Brutal Legend was taken because Activision didn't think that they game was going to be successful, a position somewhat vindicated by the lackluster sales and mixed reviews. Interestingly, Kotick said that he was hands-off with the entire affair, from the decision to drop the game, to the subsequent legal proceedings. "I had very limited knowledge of what we were even doing with him," he said. "The guy went off and signed a deal with Electronic Arts for millions of dollars and owed Vivendi money."

"I could honestly tell you, sitting here," he added. "I never saw Brutal Legend ... the judgment of the people who I trust and respect about the quality of the game, and whether or not audiences would be excited and enthusiastic about this game, was 'No.'

Source: Joystiq

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Making excuses for poor mistakes... look what you've done. Now EA has my money instead.

If this is his version of events, he still hasn't managed to endear himself to me.

If money was indeed owed then it's expected that it gets paid back, other than that I don't have anything else to say as I fell/fall in to the "It doesn't endear to me" group.

Y'know, as much as I hate to say this, that doesn't sound entirely unreasonable.

If I'd given an advance of $20,000,000 I'd want it back.

while some points was or at least sound plausible im sorry but the whole i didn't know much about a law suit and debt that big? I smell a rat xD

So Activision wanted Double Fine to pay back the money that was spent on a project that Activision decided to cancel?

Sounds retarded to me.

I guess it sounds a little bit more reasonable, but Activision still dropped it, after putting all that money behind it, just because it wasn't a Guitar Hero or COD sequel.

I'm still siding with EA and Double Fine on this one.

I wish there were oil wells that were like Bobby Kotick. He never stops spewing crude muck.

Just another lame excuse by a bad game publisher to cover up his mistakes.

Oh, well then, that explains it all. Kotick, you're now my most favouritist game publisher person in the whole wide world, and every word you say is just and true and everyone else is obviously just out to get you. Poor, little, misunderstood you.

It's subtle, but if you read the above paragraph really carefully, you might be able to detect a hint of sarcasm.

Zhukov:
Y'know, as much as I hate to say this, that doesn't sound entirely unreasonable.

If I'd given an advance of $20,000,000 I'd want it back.

Problem is, they'd wasted said money anyway. Vivendi/Activision chucked in the money and later cancelled it; they wouldn't have asked for their money back because they were the ones wasting their own in the end.

It's only when Schafer decided to up the ante and get it published despite Activision that this whole kerfuffle began, and you can bet that it wasn't because of debt, it was because that it meant that EA's newfound revenue = lost revenue for Activision.

So... let's take Kotick's version as the truth.

Christopher Grant of Joystiq meets Kotick "in September over a glass of water at the posh Beverly Hills Hotel. " - Joystiq claims it never bought into the war between him and Schafer, so we can assume this is at least neutral ground for Kotick.

Vivendi, without Kotick's knowledge - and with him having no idea that they were working with this guy, loaned them $15/20 million. - So, the CEO doesn't know where $15/20 million went and to who.

Then they drop the project, and presumably, the money they invested in it. So, you just gave up $20 million, Bobby.

Then, when EA come along and offer to buy Tim Schafer's intellectual property (remember that DRM you talk about?), you see a way to get some of that money back that you dropped.

Instead of going to THE POLICE or the courts or anyone else, you go to EA/Double Fine and say "By the way, can we have our money back please?"

I don't know if it was a decision not to publish it. I don't even really know where we were in the negotiation and discussions about what was going to happen to the product.

So all we'd said is, 'Look: If you go and do a deal with somebody else, pay back the money that was advanced to you.'

But I don't even know if there was a lawsuit from my recollection.

So, for this guy who you didn't know, who worked for you, who you lent huge amounts of money to, who you never even saw his work, and when he didn't properly work to your schedule, you asked him to pay it back when he got it but you didn't actually go to any trouble to get it?

This is the same group of people that criminally stormed Infinity Ward's HQ, and still make $4.28 Billion a year?

And what of Joystiq? Well in their review of Brutal Legend, "Joystiq's own Randy Nelson, who wrote that Brutal Legend 'doesn't live up to its billing,' were left wanting."

Oh, I shall look forward to tomorrow when he tries to explain further why he is actually useless at his job.

Or, he could be lying, be competent at his job and be a prick. Only you can decide.

TL;DR: I loaned someone I didn't know $20 million and he didn't pay it back.

What baffles me is why the response comes so late. By now it's useless, the event has gone down in gaming history (in most gamers' minds) as Activision being dicks to a developer. Where was Kotick (or anyone else from Activision) explaining their side when it actually mattered?

I also agree that if you give someone money to do something, then change your mind and don't take the money back right then and there then it's your loss and stop being a dick about it when the developer finds someone else to back the game.

Bobby Kotic is the sole reason (almost, but it sounds nice :P) i will never give activision any money.

I'm waiting patiently for the day that we see an article pop up here on the Escapist about this moron finally being forced out of his position in that company. Then maybe Acti can get back on track as a decent company.

It's pronounced 'Brütal.' [/pedantic for the sake of pedantic]

Somehow the idea of Schaffer walking off with alot of their money makes me like him more.
And if you put the 20 million into it then canceled it wouldn't you make sure to get that back sooner? It seems weird.

This still all screams "toys ejected from pram" if you drop a project why they hell wouldn't the dev team try to find a new publisher.

While asking for you investment back is understandable, blocking the publication of a game you didn't want to get that money back is called being a bunch of tossers.

Zhukov:
Y'know, as much as I hate to say this, that doesn't sound entirely unreasonable.

If I'd given an advance of $20,000,000 I'd want it back.

But at the same time, they were willing to take a bath on that money when it was simply dropped. That's where it seems like a case of sour grapes.

RatRace123:
I guess it sounds a little bit more reasonable, but Activision still dropped it, after putting all that money behind it, just because it wasn't a Guitar Hero or COD sequel.

I'm still siding with EA and Double Fine on this one.

Difference is Call of Duty and Guitar hero made tons of money and didn't suck balls....

Gotta side with Activision on this one, for at least knowing how to run a business.

rockavitch:
If money was indeed owed then it's expected that it gets paid back, other than that I don't have anything else to say as I fell/fall in to the "It doesn't endear to me" group.

Yes and no.

Investments are a risk, In a situation like this your not so much lending money but giving someone money with the hopes that if what your investing in succeeds you'll get a share of the profits and make more money than what you gave out.

Of course the problem with this is that if the product in question doesn't succeed there is no money to return to you, so you lose what you put into the project.

There are all kinds of scams run in relation to this, and a lot of legal bad blood when some investor winds up taking a bath, typically claiming that the person they gave money to lied to them or whatever. There are also issues like when someone invests in a specific project undertaken by a bigger company, the project crashes, and while the company has enough money where it could reimburse the investors it doesn't due to the terms of the contract and the fact that they were gambling on a specific project. This can get unusually nasty due to the manuvering and contract terms involved.

At any rate, the bottom line here is that Vivendi invested mony in Double Fine, but then got what it thought was a better deal and pretty much said it wanted to do a "take back" and of course Double Fine which needed the money said "no".

As far as paying back a fraction of the money, the reasn why it was doubtlessly dropped at that is that "Brutal Legend" was not a major success, and as such Vivendi's share came out to less than it invested, such are the risks.

It's corperate manuvering, and exactly the kind of thing that is ruining the gaming industry. The bottom line as it seems to me is that Vivendi invested with a company that wound up becoming the competition due to other deals, and got all butthurt about it, with Activision as Vivendi's new sugar daddy running point to try and get them their money back.

Lord Krunk:

Zhukov:
Y'know, as much as I hate to say this, that doesn't sound entirely unreasonable.

If I'd given an advance of $20,000,000 I'd want it back.

Problem is, they'd wasted said money anyway. Vivendi/Activision chucked in the money and later cancelled it; they wouldn't have asked for their money back because they were the ones wasting their own in the end.

It's only when Schafer decided to up the ante and get it published despite Activision that this whole kerfuffle began, and you can bet that it wasn't because of debt, it was because that it meant that EA's newfound revenue = lost revenue for Activision.

Pretty much this... They had written off the money and canceled the game. Now that it was going somewhere again, they wanted a refund on money they had already written off. Doesn't work that way in the really real world.

Sure, chase the money if you think you can get it but I know what game I bought and it wasn't Guitar Hero or COD...

Grounogeos:
So Activision wanted Double Fine to pay back the money that was spent on a project that Activision decided to cancel?

Sounds retarded to me.

No, no.. Standard business-attitude, all the way until it reaches court.

And... if your name is Kotick, also after you've lost and accepted a settlement.

Seriously, though.. Kotick really has some serious balls when it comes to the entire "I make up stories about what I want to be the truth, and damned be the facts" thing - why, I believe he could be a good American politician. He just needs some more ratfucking campaigns to follow his opponents around if they question him.

I agree with the troll on this one, and I think he is actually telling the hole truth for a change.

Cry me a fucking river... these recent attempts by Kotick to justify these past years of being a cancer in the industry are as effective to me as his "I thought I was Luke Skywalker, and now I'm on the Death Star" speech.

Cancellation of the project means your company had already written off the dollars as loss. If Activision dropped the project the project no longer owed the company anything. From an accounting perspective it was no longer on the books. Like any investor they lost money and pulled out. What Kotick is suggesting is that investors who lose money in stock value deserve to be reimbursed for the loss if the company later gains new investment capital.

No wonder they lost the case sour grapes.

MercurySteam:
Making excuses for poor mistakes... look what you've done. Now EA has my money instead.

The horror that he'd want $20,000,000 back from people he had loaned it to. Clearly you'd be the first to give Double Fine that money as a gift, contracts be damned.

Kotick finally doesn't come across as a tool. He's learning.

meganmeave:
If this is his version of events, he still hasn't managed to endear himself to me.

Bingo. Is his PR team really that desperate to improve the company's image that they think changing his public perception from "Utter douche who doesn't care about games and engages in pointlessly litigious court actions" to "Utter douche who doesn't care about games, and only engages in pointlessly litigious behaviour sometimes" is all they can manage?

Give it up Kotick, you've pulled too much bullshit during your tenure to be anything other than a figure of hate among gamers. Just do what any corporate shitstain would normally do; ride the wave of hatred to retirement and give yourself a vast golden parachute on the backs of the people with actual talent that you used as furniture for your entire career.

Isn't it his job to know who they are doing business with and what happens with millions of dollars?

Ah well.

Grounogeos:
So Activision wanted Double Fine to pay back the money that was spent on a project that Activision decided to cancel?

Sounds retarded to me.

They wouldn't have asked for the money back if EA didn't sign them to a deal.

I give Bob twenty of my water balloons to throw at Joe. After realizing that Bob can't hit Joe and would be wasting my water balloons, I tell him it's not going to work.

Ernie decides he can coach Bob and gives him twenty more water balloons to hit Joe. I say good luck but want the water balloons back to give to Mike.

Mike has proven he can hit Joe.

The_root_of_all_evil:
So... let's take Kotick's version as the truth.

Christopher Grant of Joystiq meets Kotick "in September over a glass of water at the posh Beverly Hills Hotel. " - Joystiq claims it never bought into the war between him and Schafer, so we can assume this is at least neutral ground for Kotick.

Vivendi, without Kotick's knowledge - and with him having no idea that they were working with this guy, loaned them $15/20 million. - So, the CEO doesn't know where $15/20 million went and to who.

Then they drop the project, and presumably, the money they invested in it. So, you just gave up $20 million, Bobby.

Then, when EA come along and offer to buy Tim Schafer's intellectual property (remember that DRM you talk about?), you see a way to get some of that money back that you dropped.

Instead of going to THE POLICE or the courts or anyone else, you go to EA/Double Fine and say "By the way, can we have our money back please?"

I don't know if it was a decision not to publish it. I don't even really know where we were in the negotiation and discussions about what was going to happen to the product.

So all we'd said is, 'Look: If you go and do a deal with somebody else, pay back the money that was advanced to you.'

But I don't even know if there was a lawsuit from my recollection.

So, for this guy who you didn't know, who worked for you, who you lent huge amounts of money to, who you never even saw his work, and when he didn't properly work to your schedule, you asked him to pay it back when he got it but you didn't actually go to any trouble to get it?

This is the same group of people that criminally stormed Infinity Ward's HQ, and still make $4.28 Billion a year?

And what of Joystiq? Well in their review of Brutal Legend, "Joystiq's own Randy Nelson, who wrote that Brutal Legend 'doesn't live up to its billing,' were left wanting."

Oh, I shall look forward to tomorrow when he tries to explain further why he is actually useless at his job.

Or, he could be lying, be competent at his job and be a prick. Only you can decide.

TL;DR: I loaned someone I didn't know $20 million and he didn't pay it back.

Do you really think the CEO of a huge corporation makes every single decision regarding it's dozens of ongoing projects? Stuff goes through multiples levels of executives before someone as high up as Kotick even hears any inkling about it. Someone or probably multiple people told him advancing money for Brutal Legend was a sound investment so he did and then when the project went south (in their eyes) they advised him to drop support for it which he again did. Then when they saw an opportunity to recoup their initial investment they jumped all over it. Sounds like how just about any major corporation works to me. May not be "moral" or "right" in your eyes, but its definitely how capiltalism works in this country.

I can tell you don't like Kotick, and niether do I, but come on everything he is saying here makes sense. Schafer owed Vivendi money and Activision has all the right in the world to sue for that money they advanced him. You wouldn't take this to the police because it's not a criminal matter. You sue for your money in court like any other business would do. As much as people like to play Activision up as a "villian" they are doing what any sound corporation would do, protecting their investors. Sure they utterly suck at public relations and could take some pointers from Valve on how to make customers like them, but at the end of the day the only way they can survive as the biggest dog in the industry is by *gasp* making money!

As far as your comments about IF and the other stuff thats just flamebait. They may not have been "morally" in the right in the IF situation but it certainly wasn't criminal. I worked at a company that did the exact same things whenever they were going to fire someone. They bring in security to try to avoid that person causing a show and disrupting business.

Not sure what your beef is with Joystiq either. The gave Brutal Legend a so so review? So what? So did just about every other games outlet out there. And now because they interview Kotick they are somehow shady? (At least thats what it seems that you are implying.) You best be assured the Escapist would have jumped at a Kotick interview if he had offered it to them. Any games outlet would have. Does interviewing Obama mean you are a Democrat and or supporter of him? Of course not. Same thing applies here.

Sure, Kotick can say his side of the story without the risk of getting sued by Activision :P I wouldn't put my trust into anything he says on this matter without hard evidence because he is obviously in the position of power.

To paraphrase Jon Stewart: "I'm not a bad person, I'm just a terrible executive."

An advance on a game doesn't strike me as a loan. Almost by definition, an advance is something you don't demand returned, but suppose we're lenient and call it an investment? Someone made the decision to invest $20m into Brutal Legend and they did. Then it didn't look like it was going well and in spite of their investment cancelled it. You can't ask for the money back, that's not how investment works. If you close down a project, you do it with the understanding that you lose the investment into it.

I can see some leeway for dispute, but it's thin and it comes down to 'well, you're making money now, so why not pay us back after all?' which is a dick move.

Overall the problem with Kotick and Activision as in this case and as in the Infinit Ward isn't so much that they do purely evil deeds. They do the right things in their self-interests, it's just that often that comes across as a very dickish thing to do. Sitting back and saying 'alright, fine, that's cool - you guys can go to EA if you want' every once in a while (with maybe just a bit of a passive agressive tone) is maybe less popular with the shareholders, but the net effect is the same (they still lost IW and they never got Double Fine's advance back) and they'd have a much better public image in the long run.

Bigeyez:

Do you really think the CEO of a huge corporation makes every single decision regarding it's dozens of ongoing projects?

I expect him to be aware of where $20 million is. He claims not to be. From a CEO, that's a terrifying admittance of incompetence.

but come on everything he is saying here makes sense.

If he's telling the truth, he's a moron.
If he's not, he's a prick.
That's what this interview says.

Schafer owed Vivendi money

Which they'd already written off. Retrieving it after that point suggests shenanigans.

and Activision has all the right in the world to sue for that money they advanced him.

Which they did. And won. No complaints there. What they don't do is block, attack and sabotage the release.[/quote]

but at the end of the day the only way they can survive as the biggest dog in the industry is by *gasp* making money!

And not giving away $20 million on a failed project...that's successfully revived and renewed after the fact.

As far as your comments about IF and the other stuff thats just flamebait.

OOops. They're quotes. That's not me. That's why they're in quote boxes.

Not sure what your beef is with Joystiq either. ... Any games outlet would have.

Any game outlet didn't though.

What I'm referring to is that Joystiq stated they never reported the Tim Schafer/Bobby Kotick war, so the Escapist wouldn't have got that interview. One wonders why, then, Kotick chose Joystiq to talk to instead of The Escapist, 1Up, MCV, Kotaku or any of the other sites. Especially as the Escapist won the Webby awards for two years running. One would have thought that the Escapist would be the first place he'd come.

Does interviewing Obama mean you are a Democrat and or supporter of him? Of course not. Same thing applies here.

If Obama wants to do a confession though, do you think he goes on Glenn Beck's show?

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