Is Blactivision Imploding?

2 03 2010

Infinity Ward LogoActivision Blizzard, Inc. (or Blactivision, as I call them) has officially lost its collective minds.  Like, certifiably.

So, if you’ve been into games at all in the last year, you’ve probably heard of one of Activision Blizzard, Inc.’s holdings, Infinity Ward.  And if you’ve heard of them, you’ve probably heard of this little art-house game they worked on, entitled “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2“.  However, printing money is apparently not high on the value list for Activision, according to the following:

In a strange black-ops quietness that was confirmed only recently, Infinity Ward’s President, Jason West (AUTHOR EDIT: and CEO Vince Zampella) was fired by Activision.  This is the man who led the company through some of its most profitable ventures, and made bank for the most recent game in PREORDERS, with many gamers plunking down cash for the name recognition alone, sight-unseen.  (Of course, fans of the series are loving Modern Warfare 2, although the critical response generally states that the game doesn’t hold as much gravitas and that moment-to-moment impact as the first Modern Warfare.)

So, pair this with CEO Bobby Kotick‘s most recent comments at the DICE conference, the layoffs in, and shuttering of the Red Octane brand, and one has to wonder what the heck is going on with Activision at the moment.  There’s no way that this is a savvy business move, and it can do nothing but tank morale for the other developers under the Blizzard/Activision banner.

Sure, Starcraft II is going to keep Activision/Blizzard with cash flowing.  And World of Warcraft is forever going to be a money factory for them.  But then again, Blizzard is not the part of the company that I’m criticizing.  They’re smart, savvy people over there.  Apparently, something of this magnitude would have to pass Kotick’s desk to sign off on.  Something is wrong with the man, or the company is prepping for a fall.  Or trying to lower earnings, so the stock falls, so Blizzard can buy them outright or something.  I have no idea, but this has terrible business sense written all over it.

I guarantee though, that we’re going to hear a lot more about this in the future.  Mind you, surely there could be some terrible skeletons that West is finally catching up to, but in my opinion, this move, for whatever reason, only solidifies Activision’s persona as of late as corporate goons looking only at the bottom line, rather than the gaming revolutionaries that they began as back in the day.

If there’s no sordid backstory, all OtakuDad can say, is that I wish Jason West the very best and we are CERTAIN that he will be snagged by some very lucky company soon.  If there’s a sordid backstory, then I hope that things will work out, that West will repent, bounce back, and get back to making great triple-A titles.

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Okay, so other than Jason West’s personal Facebook profile stating that he’s been fired, there’s no OFFICIAL comment.  So while I’m calling this one fact, it’s not OFFICIAL fact until someone corporate says something.

Also, something I intended to add but forgot, when originally written, was that this firing was a surprise exit by Activision security, and all the staff at Infinity Ward have no idea what is going down as well.  Again, I cannot imagine this does ANYTHING positive to company morale, and will reverberate throughout the Activision banner’s holdings.

FINAL UPDATE: It’s official.  Activision Blizzard, Inc. has officially reported that Jason West and Vince Zampella, the heads of Infinity Ward, have been fired, although no reason has been given for their departure.  The Call of Duty franchise will be moved to its own internal “studio” status, and will be headed by “Activision publishing veterans”, whatever that means.

May I repeat again, that this will do NOTHING but hinder future efforts and reduce morale throughout Activision Blizzard, Inc., and that this tactic of “ANYONE IS EXPENDABLE!” will simply move developers towards safer, less-innovative content.

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The Predictions Post, 2010 Edition

14 02 2010

The Great Carnac

What a year 2009 was!  My previous post talked about some of the games that stole the show, and stole our goodwill, as well.  However, another post from the past that’s worth reviewing (and re-doing this year) is the one where I predict what would happen in 2009.  Surprisingly, I got a lot right.  Let me first suggest you check out the post from last year (so you know I’m not simply making this stuff up), and then let’s see how I did.  Also, at the end of this post, I’ll make some more predictions for the remainder of 2010.

Wii-HD

Now with the power of FOUR GameCubes!

First off, I bombed a bit with the WiiHD (which I called the Wii II).  While there have been hints and theories (I’m looking at YOU Michael Pachter…) nothing firm has been said about the next Nintendo home console.  And in retrospect, why should they?  They’re printing money on the consoles and their 1st-party software.  Soccer moms all over the world aren’t going to re-up to get HD graphics, because it’s highly likely that these same people don’t even know what they’re missing.  This story from the NPD Group (Sept, 2009) says that the majority of Wii owners only own that one console.  Only 14 percent owned a 360 or PS3.  So they don’t know what to compare visual fidelity with, so why would they care?  So, again, I failed there.  I still expect to hear WiiHD hard fact sometime this year, but the actual console release probably won’t be expected until 2011 or more likely, 2012.

Next, I got the PS3 predictions almost perfect:  I said they’d drop their price (they did), not give

PS3 Grill

George Foreman ain't got NOTHING on this!

up on the console, in favor of talking news of a new one (bingo), and that they would release some great exclusives (finally) as well as start to catch up with the 360 in terms of sales competition.  So, while they dropped their price significantly, leading to much higher sales (in fact, comparably selling with the 360 month after month in recent months), lifetime stats still show the PS3 firmly in 3rd place, at least in the US.  And with exclusive content like Uncharted 2, as well as Demon’s Souls, inFamous, Killzone 2, Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time, and many more on the PSN, 2009 was the first year it made sense to actually buy the darn thing.

No Blu-Ray for 360Predictions about the Xbox 360 are a little sketchy, because well, yeah.  While Blu-Ray DID win the HD-format wars, the 360 took the downloadable market route with the Zune HD store instead of adding a Blu-Ray drive to the console itself.  Again, this was a silly prediction in the first place, but I bombed it bad.  However, the 360 is firmly established as the 2nd place (sales-wise) home console.  It remains the lead SKU for many “now-gen” games, due to the ease of programming, and the ubiquity of the console, leading to a higher sales ratio.  This one, yeah.  I chalk it up as a rookie mistake. 🙂

No Half-Life 3StarCraft 2 hasn’t come out yet.  We’ll be lucky to see it in 2010, in my opinion.  And Diablo 3 is firmly in 2012, if you ask me.  However, I still stick to my guns that relative to Diablo 3, and in the United States, StarCraft 2 will NOT live up to expectations, sales-wise.  It may be an excellent game (I expect it will, with Blizzard at the helm) but it’s going to be primarily for those Asian markets, not the US, and US customers won’t attach as well.  Valve DID come out with Left 4 Dead 2, (which to be honest, was a surprise to MANY, not just myself), but no firm announcement on Half Life: Episode 3.

Finally, the Wii DID get storage support (although not in the form of another add-on device, but) through SD card playable games, and while my “pen” joke was silly, the peripheral wars wage on, with all sorts of add-ons, simulation-enhancers, etc…  Heck, even Nintendo previewed the “Vitality Sensor”.  Which I can’t figure out the value of yet…

And, the Nintendo DS remained the Knock-Out Champeen of the Century, with sales out of this world…Surprise, surprise…

2010 – The Next Generation (is announced)

Prediction #1

The Wii will remain far and away the #1 seller of the year in home consoles.  However, market share will decrease, as more and more 360 and PS3 units sell.  However, we will get some good, real information on the next Wii, which will have 1080p support, as well as Motion-Plus waggle built-in.  Storage will not be an issue, and they will entirely re-think the “channel” idea, for a more interactive interface.

Prediction #2

The PS3 will begin to sell monthly in higher numbers than the 360.  By the year’s end, the 360 will still likely have a higher penetration rate, but that margin will have decreased significantly.  This will be largely due to God of War 3 making a HUGE impact on the sales of the PS3, as well as the long-anticipated release of Grand Turismo 5, which will be an excellent game, and the one many people were waiting for prior to plunking that money down for the PS3.  The console itself will see one more price drop before the end of the year, although not nearly as significant as the one we saw near the end of 2009.  This new price drop will occur in late October or early November, to boost holiday sales.

Prediction #3

The 360 will see some true exclusives (something kind of rare in 2009), and those exclusives will kind of suck.  Not terribly, but they won’t move hardware as Microsoft had hoped, which helps the PS3 gain some market share, and keeps Nintendo as the leader for another year.

We WILL however, get not only specs on the next Xbox, we will get a release date.  This also will hurt sales of the current console, but with a price drop (again, around the holidays), this new system (set to release in early 2012) will be highly Natal-centric.  Speaking of the Project Natal, the add-on will be pretty successful, but will sadly go the “minigame” route, rather than be the “Milo” experience we all hoped for.  The Natal concept still promises a lot more possibility, however, so expect to see some great things (and finally the processing power to back it up well) in the new console.

Prediction #4

Playstation will get out of the portable business.  Seeing year after year of disappointing returns on the PSP brand, and with fewer and fewer developers putting quality product out there, Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) will go instead into a market that is based upon the PS3’s connectivity.  Instead of being a simple fringe-user, hardly advertised benefit to the PSP, the new device will almost solely deliver the promise that the PS3 will be our “always” device for now and the future.  It will connect to let you play not only PS2-type games from the PSN, but it will also let you play different versions (or story-building side-missions) of the games you already purchased with the PS3, as well as do full voice-chat as a standard for every game that ships for the device.  It will be an e-reader as well, and will finally have two analog sticks.  It will be rumored to have six-axis controls as well, but will dump those at the last-minute to drop the price (which will be pretty exorbitant).

Prediction #5

We will get our first real view of how a service like “On-Live” will work, with a real product being REALLY available for consumer purchase around the time of E3.  While it won’t be a huge seller, it will sell enough subscriptions to remain in business, with a lot of promise for the future.

Prediction #6

Downloadable content and gaming will finally break the 25% (of total game sales) mark, and you’ll start to see major developer houses coming out with some top-shelf products ONLY available as downloads (at least initially…discs may come in the form of “Greatest Hits” styles).  Due to the success of Trials HD and Shadow Complex, CHAIR will be a huge leader in the new downloadable economy.

So that’s it!  My predictions for 2010 are locked in, and ready to be ridiculed.  Here’s hoping it’s another great year for games!

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Flash Week – Virtual NES

6 03 2009

Today, I bring you the motherlode of flash technology…in my opinion, the reason flash was meant to exist.  (Okay, not really, but it’s really cool!)  Virtual NES!  Being the last day of Flash Week, I thought it would be good to go out on a bang, and give you the opportunity to not only play just one game, but over 100 games, all released on the Nintendo Entertainment System we know and love.

Some games are a little buggy, but it’s a great way to enjoy your old favorites (and try some games that you never heard of before) from any browser, anywhere.  So thanks for following me during the first Flash Week of 2009, and I’m already looking forward to the next!





Flash Week – Don't Look Back

5 03 2009

This one’s a little different.  It’s a great use of Atari-style graphics and using the minimalist nature to focus on the gameplay and the “story”.  This one is an artistic masterpiece, in my opinion.  Give it a try, all the way to the end.  (Took me, about 10 minutes, tops.)  “Don’t Look Back” is an excellent use of the medium!





Flash Week – Don’t Look Back

5 03 2009

This one’s a little different.  It’s a great use of Atari-style graphics and using the minimalist nature to focus on the gameplay and the “story”.  This one is an artistic masterpiece, in my opinion.  Give it a try, all the way to the end.  (Took me, about 10 minutes, tops.)  “Don’t Look Back” is an excellent use of the medium!





Week of Flash – Day 3 – Auditorium

4 03 2009

I’ve written about Auditorium by Cipher Prime, LLC before, but as the game is now fully complete and can be purchased, I highly recommend you check it out again.  The demo is still the same as before, and the gameplay is still wonderfully puzzle-y.  The soundtrack is the star of this game, and really makes for a relaxing experience.  The basic idea is that you’re altering a flow of energy to feed a number of individual instruments and themes, that when completed, create a complete, orchestral whole.  If that’s confusing, then you simply have to play it to experience it!  

The game can be difficult at times due to the great later-stage puzzles but overall, it’s never overwhelming due to the knowledge that given enough time, you can always solve everything through strategic placement of the “controls” and that many puzzles have multiple ways that they can be solved.

If you haven’t checked it out before, you would definitely be doing yourself a disservice not to do so now.  Check out Auditorium!





Week of Flash Continues – Blush!

3 03 2009

 

Blush has beautiful graphics and gameplay, especially for a browser game!

Blush has beautiful graphics and gameplay, especially for a browser game!

Continuing with the creepy theme (unintentionally, I assure you), I bring you another flash game, entitled “Blush“.blush1

 

This game is excellent, and definitely has a “Flow” vibe to it.  Another thing unique about this game is that it uses the “Unity Engine” which is a small web-based graphics client that you install (completely safe, I assure you) and allows you to get some amazing graphic fidelity in a typical broadband connection.  (The technology is also being used in the highly acclaimed browser MMO from Cartoon Network, “Fusion Fall”.)  The graphics here are beautiful and the gameplay is simple, yet challenging.  Highly recommended, give Blush a try!