The Alpha Male Poses of Activision

June 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

Bobby Kirtick surprised most of the gaming world last week when he publicly expressed doubts that Activision would always be a publisher of Playstation games to The Times. His comments are based on Sony’s sales figures for the Playstation 3, the sales of which have lagged behind those of Microsoft’s 360 and the Nintendo Wii in the majority of the month’s since its release.

Kirtick’s comments are strange, not least because of their uniqueness, because whilst sales of almost all of Activision’s games have been stronger on 360, their PS3 counterparts have not sold badly. During the development of a game, the porting of assets to different consoles is a task which occurs later in the development process than many other things, and as such the cost of producing games would not be much reduced should Activision choose to stop supporting one platform.

Some, such as GiantBomb’s Jeff Gerstmann, have speculated that this discontent with sales figures may come as a result of Activision’s heavy reliance on peripheral based games such as Guitar Hero. These games take up a large amount of shelf space with the accessories commonly sold with them, and as such negotiations must be made with retailers to take these items in the first place. The supporting of several consoles he reasoned, may make these negotiations much more difficult for the publisher, which recently announced that the next installment of it’s popular Tony Hawk franchise would be bundled with a skateboard controller.

Kirtick did however choose to disclose what Sony could do to redeem itself. His statement that “they have to cut the price” echoes what many have been saying for some time now, though Sony has on multiple occasions denied that any such plans exist. This denial is not unexpected however, as console sales inevitably fall after such an announcement, as consumers wait for the cut to occur before making their purchase.

However likely these threats are to take place, the fact remains that they were made by a very powerful figure in the industry. With its merger with Vivendi, publisher of the massive multiplayer online game World of Warcraft last year, Activision became the largest videogame publisher in the world, overtaking long time rival EA, publisher of such titles as The Sims 3 and Madden. Ceasing support from Activision would be a serious blow to Sony, with titles from the Call of Duty and Guitar Hero franchises failing to make a return to the console year on year in the future.

Sony responded quickly to the threats, with their claims of positive growth and a boast of three hundred and fifty new titles coming to Playstation platforms this year. Interestingly they chose not to comment on the advice that they lower the price of their console. This may be due to a price drop that the PS3 may receive this autumn, though such reports, which included leaked pictures of a PS3 slim from its factory in Taiwan, have yet to be confirmed.

More a test of how well a newspaper style approach to writing would work in a video game context, this story nevertheless interested me greatly.

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