Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 9, 2009

Don’t bother trying to defend Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision-Blizzard

Gameindustry.biz has a story that is titled: “Kotick jokes about ‘even higher prices'”.

Since this is an older story, I will copy and paste it in full:

Robert Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, has taken a shot at critics of the next Call of Duty’s higher than standard price point by joking about pushing them up “even further”.

The quip came as part of the publisher’s Q2 earnings conference call, when Piper Jaffray’s Tony Gikas asked about the company’s “comfort level regarding pricing of some of your new games”.

Mike Griffith, Activision Publishing CEO, replied: “On the pricing, we’ve had for all of our launch titles in the back half of this year, some of which contain peripherals, as you point out, very strong retailer acceptance and support for all parts of our plan, including our merchandising plans, our marketing programs, and our price points.”

To which Kotick then added: “And Tony, you know if it was left to me, I would raise the prices even further.”

Those comments, while not to be taken seriously, may however be seen as insensitive at a time when consumers are likely to be feeling the economic pinch.

The publisher reported higher-than-expected revenues of over USD 1 billion for the three months to the end of June this year.

Did you catch the special line? Here, I will pluck it out:

Those comments, while not to be taken seriously, may however be seen as insensitive at a time when consumers are likely to be feeling the economic pinch.

The reporter is circling the wagons around Bobby Kotick! They say the comments should not be taken seriously. OK, then why is there a story dedicated to the comments in the first place? How stupid do you think gamers are? We full knew what Kotick’s mindset is. We are not gamers, we are just walking wallets.

It has nothing to do with ‘insensitivity’ to recession? Even that has nothing to do with why gamers were angry at such a comment. Gamers are angry because they sense they are being exploited, i.e. milked.

Bobby Kotick, who not only raised prices on games like Modern Warfare 2 and “jokes” that he wished to raise the pricec more, was the same who egotistically demanded for Sony to lower their price on the PS3 or risk not having any more of Bobby’s games. Gamers have a longer memory and instantly noted the hypocrisy.

In another story about Bobby Kotick, a game journalist attempts to defend his remarks on the need for ‘exploitation’. Here’s the quote:

So, Mr. Kotick, why not keep hold of these games which were deep into development and anticipated by gamers?

Kotick responded not by addressing any of the games by name, but by talking about Activision’s publishing philosophy. The games Activision Blizzard didn’t pick up, he said, “don’t have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform with clear sequel potential and have the potential to become $100 million dollar franchises. … I think, generally, our strategy has been to focus… on the products that have those attributes and characteristics, the products that we know [that] if we release them today, we’ll be working on them 10 years from now.”

Those of you out there who love new, original games and therefore may bristle at that Kotick quote should be mindful of the businessman’s follow-up: “You still need to have production of new original property but you have to do it very selectively… the focus at retail and for the consumer is to continue to be o the big narrow and deep high profile release strategy… We’ve had enough experience that I think the strategy we employ is the most successful.” He noted that the number of successful original games released in the last several years can be measured as a mere single-digit percentage of all games brought to market.

(The bolded was the ‘defense’.)

There is no point in defending this guy. I’ve looked at his career history, and he is clearly the typical business school clown who never sees ‘customers’ but only markets to exploit. It is Bobby Kotick who is responsible for Starcraft 2 being released in three versions and having LAN removed (and God knows what else, we still haven’t heard the details on the new stuff of BattleNet 2.0 which we will likely have to pay for). And gamers are definately pissed about that.

“But they will pay anyway,” some might say as a reply. This is a dumb answer. It takes many years of solid hard work, even a decade, to establish a reputation. It takes only one or two poor customer experiences with games to destroy that reputation. Reputation walks up the stairs while disreputation jumps out the window.

Remember EA? They were openly despised in what people considered them ‘milking’ their franchises and their sports games. That EA way works for a little while until customers turn against you. Profits accelerate before a crash.

Egotistical Bobby Kotick’s smirky attitude, who thinks he can tell other companies (like Sony) what prices they should set for their products, ignores what his own customers’ telling him what price HE should set. He is either going to reverse himself or have the shareholders toss him out. I’d expect the latter with this guy’s attitude.

I know he is a the CEO of the biggest third party company, but that doesn’t excuse game journalists from carrying his water. Every gamer knows he wasn’t “joking”; he was dead serious.

The “Game Industry” increases the gap between themselves and the customers. When this is done, they forget who defines this business (which is the customers as customers define every business).

Hopefully Blizzard will wake up to the harm Bobby is doing to their company’s reputation and will jump ship one day.

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