By James Brightman
Activision is a dominant force in retail publishing, but when it comes to social games, that’s another story. For quite some time, Activision head Bobby Kotick played down the value of mobile and social gaming, saying that there wasn’t an opportunity in those sectors. Meanwhile, longtime rival EA continues to build up its portfolio with Playfish and PopCap. Now, however, Kotick has stated that Activision is indeed working on Facebook.
“Sometimes we need some kind of a specialised skill –like right now there is a lot of work being done on Facebook games. We’ve always been a platform agnostic company, we’ve always said, if you have a platform and you have a big enough installed base of that platform we’ll evaluate it as an opportunity to make games on. And Facebook, with 750 million users, clearly has enough of a platform. The challenge always is, can you deliver a shareholder return by investing in said platform, and in the case of Facebook we think we can,” he told Forbes.
Kotick continued by discussing the kind of games that do well in social and the types of people needed to facilitate success.
“But the skills that are required to do social games on a Facebook platform include analytical skills that are different than what we have in our business intelligence unit today. So we’ve had to go out and find people who have these unique kinds of skills –and there are very few of them that actually have proven their skills. So you have to find people who have the characteristics of being able to develop systems to analyse game play or game behaviour,” he said. “At the end of the day, a lot of these games are resource management games, which were very popular 15 years ago. So we’ve been able to draw some people who had experience with research management games with the company or other companies, and bring them back in, and assess whether or not they really are the analytical minded people that you need to do this.”
He added, “I think a lot of the time we end up taking people who –and this is sort of a big cultural advantage at Activision– we find people who are have a graduate degree of some kind, mainly it’s in the sciences, and they are in jobs that would never suggest that they were working for anything game related, but that they’re passionate gamers. And they’re really bright and well educated, so we’ll bring them in and train them.”
Can Activision become a leader in the social space, or is it too late? Are they too far behind EA, Zynga, and others?