Ars Technica Rips Activision Blizzard CEO

Don’t invite Ben Kuchera of Ars Technica and Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick to the same party.

Yesterday, Kuchera penned a surprisingly personal criticism of the long-time CEO, including a photo of Kotick with devil’s horns added (left). In the column, Kuchera refers to Kotick as "a carpetbagger," "the devil," "brazen," and possessed of a "cash lust."

At issue seems to be Kuchera’s feeling that Kotick is all about the Benjamins, not the games:

That’s why I find Bobby Kotick so distasteful—the man is a carpetbagger… usually, when you put the devil in charge, you have the good graces to at least keep a smooth-talking demon or two around to deal with the press. With Kotick, he’s very brazen about his need to squeeze every last dollar he can out of every franchise under the Activision Blizzard label. He wants to exploit his games. He wants to make sure he has a sequel every year, and don’t forget the Wii and DS ports. Why have one StarCraft game if you can have three?…

Kotick doesn’t play his games, and it shows. He has a tin ear when it comes to speaking to investors or the press. This is a guy who looks at the balance sheets of World of Warcraft and wants more, more, more… and it’s doubtful he even knows the name of Azeroth. Under his control, Activision Blizzard has started to look and feel like the Shire at the end of the Lord of the Rings (and by that, I mean the books’ vision)…

World of Warcraft may look like it will go on forever, but the only thing greater than the loyalty of those players is Kotick’s cash-lust. The only question is if the two will ever collide…

Whatever one might think of the man, Kotick clearly has business acumen. He was runner-up as Marketwatch’s CEO of the Year for 2008 and is currently featured on the cover of Forbes. In fact, the business mag’s profile of Kotick comes in for a mention by Kuchera. Some gamers are upset by a line penned by writer Peter Beller and not attributed to the Activision Blizzard CEO:

EA also teamed with MTV to sell Rock Band, a shameless knockoff of Guitar Hero that added drums, bass and a microphone to the world of make-believe rock stars.

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  1. 0
    the1jeffy says:

    I had read the Ars Blog which referenced one line and looks to be heavily [ed] and …. elipsed.  I wanted to know the CONTEXT of what the guy said before I rush to judgement.  And even the MTV article (which I admit to just reading) tries to put the comment into perspective.

    Sorry that one got by you.  Next time I’ll be clearer when I’m calling out someone for blndly believing a one-line edited blurb as the truth.  I should have said, "Where’s the quote from, and what context did he say it in?"  And then followed up with a link to the MTV interview that tries to use context.

    It’s sound-byte journalism at it’s worst.  We hate FoxNews for less, yet Ars gets a pass.

    ~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

  2. 0
    farlander28 says:

    Here is the exact quote, as it was included in the Ars article, which you apparently were too lazy to read, even though this GP article is a direct reference to it. It’s called the "minimum effort", you might want to try it before you try to shoot someone down:

    "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 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."


    "Life sucks, get a fuckin helmet" – Denis Leary

  3. 0
    the1jeffy says:

    Where’s the quote?  I have never seen the man say that, and I believe you are unfairly paraphrasing.

    Also, SawIV may have been terrible, but it still made money.  Despite what the critics think, certain horror fans just loved it.  It was lower budget, and had less lofty goals.  So what.

    ~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

  4. 0
    Ashla says:

    Historicly, Blizzard has had opportunities to push out at least a few games that people were hungry for (warcraft adventures and Starcraft: ghost), but ultimately canned the projects because they had a supreme dedication to quality.

    I’m going to play a wait and see approach to this turn of events. If blizzard manages to fuck up, I’ll be just as pissed as any of you. But I have enough faith in them that they’ll be able to resist the charm of quick cash at the expense of there stirling reputation.

  5. 0
    farlander28 says:

    The point isn’t that any exist now, but that this is the direction they are heading in. As some have mentioned, this is a blatant rip-off of the bad EA philosophy, watering down the market with bullshit sequels just to bleed every stone dry before giving up.

    Thus, if this direction holds, it can be potentially damaging for Blizzard, and by extension, the industry as a whole.


    "Life sucks, get a fuckin helmet" – Denis Leary

  6. 0
    insanejedi says:

    I dunno if you know this, but you are playing Starcraft. It’s a Stratagy game involving the most massive amount of micromanagement and multi-tasking. It promotes ADD…

  7. 0
    farlander28 says:

    I think that this is the point that alot of people aren’t getting. If you read Ben’s article in full (like I did yesterday), rather than just reading a headline and summary from GP like some here seem to be doing, then you will understand his full point. That being, that this guy stands apart from other CEO’s and their equivalents at other big gaming companies with respect to his attitude towards games and gamers.

    He’s a cold-blooded CEO, plain and simple. He cancels potential new IPs if they can’t be exploited every fiscal year, for a number of years ahead, and he has no passion whatsoever for the gaming industry, unlike the others he’s compared to.

    While Ben’s tone was a bit vindictive, it’s not exactly misplaced. I think he describes his tactics as slash-and-burn, and that’s the key point – they might bring in money for a few years ahead, but at the expense of long-term profit and customer loyalty.

    "Life sucks, get a fuckin helmet" – Denis Leary

  8. 0
    sheppy says:

    I do have to say, I don’t like any CEO who cancels games because they aren’t easy to exploit in the same year Guitar Hero gets 4 games with 10 SKUs.

    Wall of Text Simulation- Insert coin to continue.

  9. 0
    Wolvenmoon says:

    I said flake off to blizzard first D2 character that expired on me. Then I just started laughing as WoW came out. Still am. I find it absolutely hilarious that people are playing a game with that low a standard.

    The only part I don’t laugh about is that the masses of idiots or the people peer pressured into playing WoW are funding the demise of what was a very innovative and fun industry to work in.

    Of course, there’s always open source, but OSS makes no money, and no money means no drive…and THAT means no really awesome innovation. Seriously, when’s the last time you saw a huge news story about an extremely innovative piece of open source software? It’s been years for me.


  10. 0
    insanejedi says:

    Maybe I should have spaced it out with a paragraph, but his point was that I didin’t have the patience for something like 30 missions for one faction. I told him, you don’t tell a reviewer if a game is repetitive to have Patience and preseverience. A game is repetitive a game is repetitive, and if a game is boring a game is boring, no other real justification for that. If a game is repetitive, I don’t want to play that game.

    Do I acknoladge that there is a danger with Starcraft 2 and that happening? Yes. Do I explicitly say that Starcraft 2 WILL (keyword) be repetitive and boring? No.


  11. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    You were comparing SC1 and 2 and concluded that you don’t want to play a "repetitive mess with no diversity" The only logical connection to the rest of your post is that you feel SC2 will be a "repetitive mess with no diversity"

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  12. 0
    insanejedi says:

    I didin’t say Starcraft 2 would be a repetitive mess with no diversity. I’m saying that I don’t want to play a game that is a repetitive mess with no diversity. Why don’t you actually read before you jump the gun? Who are you? Blizzardvision Internet PR?

  13. 0
    Austin_Lewis says:

    You don’t know if its going to be a ‘repetitive mess with no diversity’, do you?  Then I’d wait until the product gets here to bitch and moan.

    Personally, I’ve never been disappointed with any Blizzard purchase yet.

  14. 0
    insanejedi says:

    But the campigns only had 10 missions each. It was fast enough to keep giving you newer units and newer tech and diversity of missions before you got bored of it. I highly doubt anyone playing Starcraft 1 back in the day felt that the campaigns for each faction was rushed in any way. The game still eneded up with a great space-operatic story that spawned 3 books, why now? why are you doing this? If there was no problem, why fix a non-existing one? And you don’t tell a reviewer who doesn’t like a repetitive nature of a game to "have some patience and perseverence" It’s like the same response of "Your just not good at the game. You aren’t good at games!" that kind of immature shallow arguement. I don’t want to play a repetitive mess with no diversity.

  15. 0
    Austin_Lewis says:

    Come on, seriously?  OH NO, I have to make a choice!  I can’t play the Terrans for 30 missions, this is boring, waaaaaaaaaaah.

    There’s these things called patience and perseverence.  Learn about them. 

    In all honesty, I sat down to Starcraft and its expansion and played through one race at a time.  Terran first, Zerg second, Protss third. 

    Wouldn’t it be great to get a giant and epic tale in three seperate parts?  Or would you rather have the hackneyed story that we get in so many games today?

  16. 0
    insanejedi says:

    I think your over and understating the presentational value of other games, blizzard games, and Starcraft 2.

    Games like Red Alert 3 and even the original Red Alert 2 and Red Alert 1 had stories which transitions one mission to the next. World in Conflict had that, and the original Starcraft had that as well.

    The overarching narrative and number of missions in the campaign have been achived in other games with multiple factions that are on top of that, a much tighter budget and release schedual than Blizzard. It has been more than a DECADE when Starcraft was first released, and now your telling me you can’t finish 3 campaigns for HOW LONG THIS GAME HAS BEEN IN DEVELOPMENT???

    The game may still have the 30+ amount of missions that are equivilent to other stratgy games, but my issue is how long can you play one faction before you get really bored of what your doing? Unless your tech tree is as big as the General Sherman, you are either going to get everything far too fast and the later missions become repetitive and boring, or the tech is going to come in far too slowly and make it more a grind.

    Another issue is the release dates for the other packs. If it’s a year minimum on each release we have a problem here. Are you telling me that it could be 2-3 years till the next Starcraft pack comes out? Do you really think that people are going to care about the story or even remember it after all that time?

    I don’t know why, for the amount of resources and time this company has, found the idea to split it into 3 games, and for some reason suggested "Woulden’t it be fun to play with one faction for the entire game?"

  17. 0
    mogbert says:

    You have "ripped off" in quotes, but no one has said that. Let’s see what is released and see if it feels like it is a full game, or if it feels like they are holding stuff back. Right now, it would be silly to argue that the game is complete (or incomplete for that matter) before it is released. However, every game they have where they put out expansions eventually come out as Battlechests. I’ll wait for that.

    For me, I guess the difference is that with a lot of the games that do this, you couldn’t really see the changes that would be implemented later. We couldn’t really see what changes would happen in the Lich expansion on WoW (yes, same company we are talking about) when WoW was first released. But in this case, it just feels that they are cutting things out in order to make it ship faster and so they can sell more boxes. Generally, a trilogy wouldn’t mean two expansion packs, it would mean three games. Either way, only time will tell.


    P.S. I said Blizzard in my original reply, but meant Activision, which is about the same thing, but I wanted to be clear.

  18. 0
    Alex says:

    I saw what they were saying at Blizzcon about this too. According to the devs, the trilogy idea was their own decision. They wanted to go with a huge epic storyline but they realized that they were packing in so much story it would take them too long to get everything they wanted in, so they were faced with the choice of trimming it down, making it all one game that would have taken forever to come out (and probably been three times the price anyway) or splitting it up.

    When you look at it that way, the decision to split it up really makes the most sense out of the three, especially when you consider how many people are only going to want the game for multiplayer. Those people can buy the Terran campaign and get into right away rather than having to wait another few years for the other two campaigns to be finished. I’m personally completely discounting the option of trimming it down because I love the story of the games and I would rather 2/3 of the story they want to tell not end up on the cutting room floor.

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  19. 0
    sheppy says:

    Define buying it a third at a time.  I’m not the hugest fan of missing a Zerg and Protoss campaign initially but let’s be realistic about this.  Star Craft II’s first pack features FULL multiplayer as well as a whopping 28 missions.  These missions will have a very cinematic feel to what you are doing and will act more as a campaign (ie: things achieved in the last level impact the next one) rather than a "stack o’ levels" like every other Blizzard RTS.  Now, considering the amount of work going in, campaign exclusive units, overarching narrative, and bulk of missions in the campaign, I could completely see hwo you feel like you’re getting "ripped off."

    Nope, fuck that.  Can’t see it.  Somehow you think that you deserve ~90 missions in a single game when no other competing product comes close to that number.  To me it seems like all Blizzard is doing here is breaking up the expansion packs in a different way.  I mean, everyone is complaining about the price of the matter, and yet price hasn’t even been announced.  Who’s to say champaigns 2&3 aren’t going to come with expansion pack pricing?  Especially considering how much content Relic is working into their Expansion Packs?

    Wall of Text Simulation- Insert coin to continue.

  20. 0
    Alex says:

    I actually LIKE all the Starcraft factions, so yeah, I’d be pretty happy with that. Plus there are some Protoss missions mixed in in the first game where the two factions’ paths cross.

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  21. 0
    Alex says:

    While that’s true in and of itself, the individual campaigns are more than ten missions long (the plan is to have at LEAST 25-30 missions per race, if I remember right), so it’s not like they literally just took one game’s worth of campaign missions and split them up into three games, since each race’s campaign in Starcraft was around 10 missions, and I believe the Brood War campaigns even less.

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  22. 0
    Joran says:

    It’s the same love-hate relationship consumers have with movies and sequels.  Sequels are the closest thing to a sure thing profit-wise in entertainment, but they don’t often advance the media.

    Now, you have a CEO who specifically, without tact, said the following:  "With respect to the franchises that don’t have the potential to be exploited every year across every platform with clear sequel potential that can meet our objectives of over time becoming $100 million plus franchises, that’s a strategy that has worked very well for us."

    Business-wise it makes sense; in terms of producing good quality products, not so much.  I don’t blame him, but as an enthusiast, hearing that made me cringe.  Now I know what a film critic who has to review Saw IV feels like.


  23. 0
    the1jeffy says:

    So video game companies are supposed to stay unprofitable to assuage bloggers now?  OK, not UNprofitable, just barely profitable so as to keep the starving artist sheik. 

    CEO’s are hired to make their company profitable, welcome to Business 101.  When did making money become a bad thing? 

    ~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

  24. 0
    Austin_Lewis says:

    The word is ‘reckoning’.

    Also, how is Blizzard ‘bow[ing] to this idioicy’?  We’re going to be getting 3 games that apparently have thirty mission each.  That’ll take longer to play through than most games I’ve bought lately, and the story is bound to be fucking fantastic.

  25. 0
    Zerodash says:

    The day of rekoning (sp?) will come when people burn out and abandon these franchises. The thing that upsets me the most is how Blizzard had to bow to this idiocy with Starcraft 2. 

    It would be a shame if Blizzard becomes a distilled husk of creativity over this jackass CEO…

  26. 0
    KayleL says:

    I think EA learnt it lesson, and now starting to make new IPs. I wouldn’t mind seeing sequels to all the new IPs because there are still much to improve on, and I can’t watch for Dead Space 2, Mirror’s Edge 2, etc.

    I would say Activision is the new EA from 3 years ago. Why Activision!? You are getting huge amount of money right now. Use that to do risky stuff because if you don’t, their is going to be a huge down fall in the future that would be hard to get out of, like what happened to EA.

  27. 0
    sheppy says:

    Lot’s of good things to say about EA, actually.  It’s hard to believe this is the same company that forced me to buy Timesplitters 3 used since I could not denounce TS but was on an EA boycott at the time.

    Wall of Text Simulation- Insert coin to continue.

  28. 0
    mogbert says:

    EZ Knight, that was kind of a subtext there. EA is starting to publish original games and Blizzard is starting to make shovelware sequals. I have no buy-in with Blizzard, and looking at it from the outside it doesn’t hold much hope. I think they will get worse before they get better.

    As for the Trillogy, how does buying it a third at a time seem better then buying the same content all at once for a third of the price? I’m staying out of it for a few years, if it’s any good they will eventually sell the whole thing for regular price.

  29. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    Now if I am to understand my gaming history correctly, Harmonix created Guitar Heor in the first place because Activision didn’t think a full band game would sell. You heard that right. Rock Band would have come out first, but Activision fearing that not enough people would buy such a huge bundle told them to trim it down to guitar. Tehn when Activision and Harmonix broke up, Activision kept the Guitar Hero label and Harmonix went on the partner with MTV and EA to release what they wanted to in the first place.

    Hey, something good to say about EA.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  30. 0
    Vake Xeacons says:

    Not to mention that Saruman was a smooth-talking devil that he’s refering to. But this guy’s mad about Wii and DS ports? So all Nintendo owners have dirty money? They don’t deserve to get good games?

  31. 0
    Nekowolf says:

    I don’t know…From what I heard, is that each game is the campaign to each race. So the Terran have their own game, the Protoss got one, and then the Zerg. So it’s like the first, where it’s three campaigns, but broken up from all in one game, to three.

    If that’s right, sure, it’s  trilogy, but…I guess you could say, it’s not a trilogy of sequels.

  32. 0
    konrad_arflane says:

    Re: the Rock Band vs. Guitar Hero thing, the real trouble is that he’s accusing Harmonix, who made Guitar Hero (I and II) of knocking off their own creation with Rock Band. That doesn’t really make sense.

    Re: The Shire:

    In the books, Saruman survives the fall of Isengard and travels to the Shire, which he tries to make into a sort of mini-Isengard, felling trees and starting furnaces and other sorts of nasty industry. However, he is sufficiently weakened (and doesn’t have huge armies of Uruk-Hai) that Merry and Pippin can defeat him pretty much on their own.

    That’s the Cliff’s Notes version, anyway.

  33. 0
    GoodRobotUs says:

    In the books, Saruman took control of the Shire and turned it from a idyllic rural setting into a polluted industrialized mess. The 4 Hobbits ended up leading a revolt to save it, and, with the help of Galadriels gifts to Sam restored it to its former glory, but not without cost of the lives of several Hobbits, I suspect that’s what he’s referring to :)

  34. 0
    Deamian says:

    3 Starcraft games = Milking out money from the players? True, but if anybody out there is a fan of Starcraft, that’s money well spent. In fact, that’s downright great; we’ve waited 10 years for more content, and a trilogy also gives a movie-feel to it as well, plus a fat greasy truck-driver butt-load of more content too.

    "EA also teamed with MTV to sell Rock Band, a shameless knockoff of Guitar Hero that added drums, bass and a microphone to the world of make-believe rock stars."

    Maybe it is a knock-off with only a few more items to the bundle, but if sells better than Guitar Hero, that means there was a demand for it. Besides, in a Rock Band, there’s not just a Guitar hero, there’s also a Drummer/Bass/Lead Sing hero!

    Other than that, it looks like someone is just jealous they dind’t come up with WoW in the first place. In fact, it just sounds as if someone is jealous they have less business acumen than someone else…


    Out of Subject.;

    "Under his control, Activision Blizzard has started to look and feel like the Shire at the end of the Lord of the Rings (and by that, I mean the books’ vision)…"

    Being a heathen who has never read the books but watched the movies, shouldn’t that be a good thing? The Shire was in trouble WHILE they were gone, but peaceful when they came back… To any LotR buffs, explain this one to me? :(


  35. 0
    Zero Beat says:

    Indeed, they have been less evil lately, and a few of their moves may put them into neutral, before they go back into good.


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  36. 0
    Zero Beat says:

    The ire is drawn because Guitar Hero is often accused of being a Guitar Freaks ripoff.  However, it’s Konami’s fault that they didn’t make that game widely available outside of Japan and a select few arcades in other territories.


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  37. 0
    Doomsong says:

    You have to remember that a lot of people don’t bother to read up on who developed which game. So in most cases, a majority of people fall in line with the ignorant, inflamitory ramblings of a glorified blogger rather easily.

    That being said, I do have to agree that exploiting every good title by rushing out a half assed sequal each year to make a quick buck may sound like a good deal to the greedy, but it would sink the company faster than a torpedo once the public lost interest.

    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" – Benjamin Franklin

  38. 0
    GoodRobotUs says:

    Well, to be honest, there aren’t all that many CEO’s out there who aren’t in it for the money, there’s little point starting a business otherwise.

    That said, this seems to be a prevailing mentality at the moment, with the recession starting to bite, I’ve seen many companies, though mostly financial institutions, being more and more concerned with squeezing as much money out of the consumer as possible before things go horribly wrong.

    For example, many banks are now no longer offering Mortgage holidays, it seems that whilst we are expected to cough up to save their financial hides, they are doing everything in their power to avoid helping us in return, and that worries me, because it feels as though they know everything is hitting the fan and are simply trying to grab as much as possible before the storm really hits.

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