So, how’s that working out?

So, you might remember my writing about how Activision reaffirmed its commitment to triple-A teams, basically continuing working on the strategy of only making blockbuster hit games – just like every other big player in the gaming industry seems to be doing.

So, how’s that been working out for them?

Well, Activision is perhaps the most successful at this strategy so far, based on the financials.

However, let’s look at 2010.

For this year, Activision had scheduled: six boring old movie/tv licenses, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, and eight “triple-A blockbuster” games.

Well, we don’t need to mention how Cataclysm did. As for the licenses, I’m not sure how they even fit in with the company’s ethos of only doing blockbuster games nowadays – but most of those generally don’t exactly break even anyway.

So, that leaves us with Activision’s eight blockbuster titles for 2010. How did they do?

Well, six of them are dead. That is, those six “triple-A blockbuster” did so poorly that their respective game series (or as they’re called in the industry, ‘franchises’) won’t be getting any more games made.

That leaves Activision’s blockbuster lineup with: Starcraft II, Call of Duty and the next major pay-for World of Warcraft expansion. Essentially a 66% attrition rate on the triple-A franchises for the year.

The other big publishers are having similar problems, only they don’t have World of Warcraft or Starcraft to prop them up.

There’s a word for how that whole blockbuster-games-only strategy is working out: Disaster.

Activision would probably make a better return by pouring its development money at SpiderWeb Software, Mojang Specifications, or Frictional Games – and basically getting the heck out of their way – because clearly nobody in Activision management seems to have much idea about how to make money in the games industry right now, by – you know – making games.

Heck, if they want the same sort of return on blockbuster titles that they got in 2010, they could just burn the money. Actually, they might even wind up a bit ahead doing it that way.

2 thoughts on “So, how’s that working out?”

  1. So I guess this means “triple-A blockbuster” gets slotted under the same marketingese as “original gameplay” and “first ever X” that usually translates to “utter bullshit” ?

  2. Why would we expect the games business to be any different than the movie business or the book business or the music business? We get a few very popular hits, and then an increasing number of less popular items as you go down the sales chart. None of the companies publishing these media types can predict what will become a hit. Who predicted a children’s book by an unknown author (Harry Potter) would become one of the top sellers of all time?

    It seems the only rational strategy is to publish enough different items that by multiple rolls of the dice, you come up with winners sometimes, and by holding down the average cost of production below the average return of your products. A Triple-A only strategy guarantees your failures will be expensive failures, and prevents you from making the cheap hits that are very profitable.

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