Activision CEO and Blizzard not on the same page

Every single time Bobby Kotick, Activision CEO, opens his mouth something stupid comes out.  He must really be excited about acquiring Blizzard in the Vivendi merger.  Here’s what he had to say about Starcraft 2:

“On the Blizzard side, [we need to] really be figuring out things like the StarCraft business model for the future, with in-game advertising and sponsorship, [which have] really not been something that has moved the dial for anybody in the videogame industry, but that we think presents tremendous opportunity for the future.

“[Blizzard] has been thinking about how StarCraft, because it is a short-session experience, can actually be the model for in-game advertising and sponsorship and tournament play and ladder play for the future.” — Bobby Kotick

Business Model?! When I read this yesterday (Thanks Graev for pointing it out) I was at a loss for words or immediate reaction.  I think I actually laughed out loud and then went into a lengthy discussion with Graev about our mutual disgust for the direction PC gaming has been going.  The thought of Activision laying a filthy paw on StarCraft is enough to make me take a magnet to my hard drive and convert to consoles altogether.

Thankfully Blizzard restored some of my dying faith with their reply to Bobby Kotick:

“We have no plans to have in-game advertising in StarCraft II. We believe Bobby was actually referring to, which has always included ads.” — Blizzard

Damage control, in my opinion.  There is a big difference between in-game and  What they should really do is slap some sense into this CEO then feed him to the zerglings.  Whether or not Bobby is just spouting random nonsense trying to look like the goose who laid or acquired the golden egg or not, nothing he says makes me want to purchase any Activision-Blizzard game ever again.

That’s my rant for the day, but considering the source material I’m sure there will be plenty more in the near future.

  • It certainly hasn’t looked like a marriage made in heaven so far. Every game has to have a business model, and yes it does look like as the market matures the publishers in particular will look to discover new ways for monetizing games. However I’m not sure that Blizzard ever used to carry on in that way, promoting the game only, and not how they were going to make money.

    Clearly Activision are only to happy to have ended up in bed with Blizzard and can’t shut up about it. Hopefully things will settle down in time.

  • /agree Keen

    Again, WOW… In business when a CEO says something stupid and their subordinates have to correct them, one of two things happen: 1) the subordinate “disappears” or 2) the CEO “disappears”. The above reads like the nasty stuff is just beginning. If I was an investor in Activision, I’d be highly upset at Kotick’s comments and especially that the successful company (Bliz) had to correct them. Oooooo, things are going to be interesting in the future.

    BTW: Where are you finding these quotes?

  • Blizzard’s correction definitely sounds like damage control. I agree with you there.

    A big Coca-Cola billboard in a distant sci-fi universe would be unsettling.

    But I can at least understand what Kotick’s trying to get at. Starcraft is the only video game with its own TV stations. Everyone and his mother plays Starcraft in Seoul, with tons of TV viwers watching tournaments. Advertising is a way to make money off the game’s viewers, and not just the players.

    So EA is absolutely going to demand some sort of advertising in the game. I don’t think there’s any avoiding that. The bigger question is how advertising will be included. It needs to be at loading screens or otherwise unobtrusive, and I’m sure Blizzard will work hard to ensure it’s not too out-of-place.

  • Activision, not EA. Although this has EA’s muddy footprints written all over it. 😉

    I can see it now… big blinking signs on the side of overlords “Intel Inside!”

  • EA/DICE went through backlash-trauma after threatening comprehensive advertising inside BF2142 on billboards and adverts littered around the decaying urban environments in that game.

    The adverts that were eventually implemented seemed actually pretty suitable and seemed to me to work quite well. 2142’s wikipedia page has some details fwtw, though since the opening year my collective long since migrated back to BF2.

    To be honest, unless I’m playing something “immersive” I don’t think I particularly care about ingame advertising if it would contribute to improved long-term game support, though one man’s immersive is another’s meaningless fluff.

    That the publisher ends up making money from playeradmins who pay for their own server hosting – the case in 2142 – now that seemed an issue to rabble over.

  • I dislike in-game ads because to me they are just another means for publishers to be greedy and intrusive. I thought the ads in BF2142 were ugly and out of place. Big enormous billboards telling me about intel are unnecessary.

    I maintain my obstinate position that I will never be influenced by in-game ads and that I will do all in my power to avoid products advertised if possible.

    They have no place in a RTS game. Blizzard would do well to avoid them.

  • @Keen: On the contrary, I thought the 2142 billboard concept was quite elegantly done. Sometimes they were Intel, sometimes they were adverts for gameworld organisations. Generally, they made me giggle.

    They had no effect on game play, added (I thought) to the credible near-future aesthetic of the world, and as implemented were a reasonable compromise between Evil Corporate Suits and the context of the gameworld. Certainly they were “unnecessary”, but I couldn’t see them doing any harm to the gameplay either. At the very least they gave me another place to hide behind from tank columns, and peek out at Titan guns.

    Why exclude them from an RTS-style game? I can quite easily imagine a reboot of the Syndicate in which they would fit beautifully. The urban environment of C&C: Generals, for example, may have looked more convincing with adverts – though given the game’s scale they’d would have been very very tiny ones…

    Please, point at the harm.

    I’m sure you have good reasons for your position, but you’re not explaining them very well.

  • EA used a form of tracking software to collect information on their customers. These tracker gathered information on your web surfing habits and god knows what else in order for EA to “deliver relevant ads” to the players.

    I also feel that they are trying to overly benefit at my expense. I bought the game, paid my $49.99, and still had to watch their ads. The new trend is to allow people to play for free and then subject them to heinous advertisements. BF2142 charged AND slapped intel billboards in my face.

    The harm?

    1. Violation of privacy
    2. I feel used

    Placing ads in StarCraft would 1) destroy the feel of the game. Ads have absolutely no relevance in the SC universe. In BF2142 they were able to get away with the whole “billboard” approach but I can’t imagine how it could possible pulled off eloquently.

    If I’m paying for the game then I expect a certain level of respect and professionalism from the companies in return.

    That’s my stance.

  • @Keen: can you point to something about the 2142 ad tracker that supports what you’ve said? The only links I can find were rebutted by EA explicitly stating it only tracks in-game advert impressions, and does not access any out-of-game files. Ie, no root-kit, no browser-interception.

    If BF* games had no ongoing online component, I might agree with your second paragraph but a substantial element of the games are official ranked servers and persistent character tracking. If the trickle of money from advertising was enough to encourage long-term support for the game, I’m all for it. They could have cross-charged the clan serveradmins, of course, but that would have been enormously unpopular too.

    As for hypothetical adverts in Starcraft: that would depend totally how well they were done. They might be utterly awful, but I can also imagine clever brand-parodies that might work acceptably.

  • Back when EA first added the in-game ads people were able to tell that the tracker gathered more than what they claimed it did. It sent a lot more than what ads players looked at in-game

    They said themselves that the sole purpose of the tracking was to deliver relevant ads, but I don’t see how that is possible without knowing more about the individual.

  • @Keen: If you can find the links, I’m prepared to be convinced, but I’ve googled as best I can (my googlefu is very weak today) and can’t find anyone waving smoking packet dumps.

    They already know they like Scifi FPS games. From the player’s IP (roughly) where they live. That’s enough to get started (a stab at language, a dollop of brand localisation) with relevant advertising.