Activision

Activision
Activision
Type Subsidiary of Activision Blizzard
Industry Video game industry
Founded 1979
Headquarters Santa Monica, California, United States
Area served Worldwide
Products Crash Bandicoot series
Call of Duty series
Marvel Video Games
Spyro the Dragon series
Tony Hawk series
James Bond series
Revenue US$2.9 billion (FY 2008)[1]
Owner(s) Vivendi
Employees 4,000[2][3]
Parent Activision Blizzard
Website Activision.com
Activision headquarters in Santa Monica, California

Activision is an American publisher, majority owned by French conglomerate Vivendi SA. Its current CEO is Robert Kotick. It was founded on October 1, 1979[4] and was the world's first independent developer and distributor of video games for gaming consoles. Its first products were cartridges for the Atari 2600 video console system published from July 1980 for the US market and from August 1981 for the international market (UK).[5] Activision is now one of the largest third party video game publishers in the world and was also the top publisher for 2007 in the United States.[6] On January 18, 2008, Activision announced they were the top US publisher in 2007, according to the NPD Group.[7]

On December 2, 2007, it was announced that Activision would be acquired by Vivendi, with Vivendi contributing its gaming division plus cash, in exchange for a majority stake in the new group. The merger between Activision and Vivendi Games took place on July 9, 2008, with the newly formed company known as Activision Blizzard.[8] Activision will still exist as a subsidiary owned by Activision Blizzard, and it will still develop and publish games such as Call of Duty, along with some of Vivendi's owned IPs, such as the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon series.[clarification needed] As of June 15, 2010, Activision and Microsoft, specifically the Interactive Entertainment division, have an exclusive multiyear agreement; Don Mattrick announced this on June 14, 2010 during Microsoft's 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo conference.[9] On Feb. 9, 2011 Activision announced that it was cancelling the Guitar Hero franchise, and would no longer be developing or publishing future titles for the series[10] and eventually clarified that the series was merely taking a break.[11]

Contents

History of Activision

Before the formation of Activision, software for video game consoles were published exclusively by makers of the systems for which the games were designed. For example, Atari was the only publisher of games for the Atari 2600. This was particularly galling to the developers of the games, as they received no financial rewards for games that sold well, and did not receive credit for their games. This caused several programmers to resign from their jobs. Activision became the first third-party game publisher for game consoles.[12]

The company was founded by former music industry executive Jim Levy, venture capitalist Richard Muchmore, and former Atari programmers David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead. Atari's company policy at the time was not to credit game creators for their individual contributions; Levy took the approach of crediting and promoting game creators along with the games themselves. The steps taken for this included devoting a page to the developer in their instruction manuals[13][14][15] and challenging players to send in a high score (usually as a photograph, but sometimes as a letter) in order to receive an embroidered patch.[16][17][18][19] These approaches helped the newly formed company attract experienced talent. Crane, Kaplan, Levy, Miller, and Whitehead received the Game Developers Choice "First Penguin" award in 2003, in recognition of this step.

The departure of the four programmers, whose titles made up more than half of Atari's cartridge sales at the time, caused legal action between the two companies that were not settled until 1982. As the market for game consoles started to decline, Activision branched out, producing game titles for home computers and acquiring smaller publishers.

In 1982, Activision released Pitfall!, a best selling title on the Atari 2600. Pitfall! was a huge success for the company and the developers. Due to this success, many clones of the game were introduced, including stand-up arcade games.

On June 13, 1986, Activision purchased struggling text adventure pioneer Infocom. Jim Levy was a big fan of Infocom's titles and wanted the company to remain solvent. About six months after the "InfoWedding", Bruce Davis took over as CEO of Activision. Davis was against the merger from the start and was heavy-handed in its management. Eventually in 1989, after several years of losses, Activision closed down the Infocom studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts, extending to only 11 of the 26 employees an offer to relocate to Activision's headquarters in Silicon Valley. Five of them accepted this offer.[20]

In 1988, Activision began involvement in other types of software besides video games, such as business applications. As a result, Activision changed its corporate name to Mediagenic to have a name that globally represented all its activities. Under the Mediagenic holding company, Activision continued to publish video games for various platforms notably the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Sega Master System, the Atari 7800, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and Amiga.

New Activision

Following a multi-million judgment on damages in a patent infringement, suit wherein infringement had been determined many years prior during the Levy era, a financially weakened Mediagenic was taken over by an investor group led by Robert Kotick also known as Bobby Kotick. After taking over the company, the new management filed for a Chapter 11 reorganization. In the reorganization, the company merged Mediagenic with The Disc Company. While emerging from bankruptcy, Mediagenic continued to develop games for PCs and video game consoles, and resumed making strategic acquisitions. After emerging from bankruptcy, Mediagenic officially changed its entity name back to Activision on December 1992 and became a Delaware Corporation (it was previously a California Corporation). At that point, Activision moved its headquarters from Mountain View in the Silicon Valley to Santa Monica in Southern California. Activision chose from then on to concentrate solely on video gaming.

In 1991, Activision packaged 20 of Infocom's past games into a CD-ROM collection called The Lost Treasures of Infocom, without the feelies Infocom was famous for. The success of this compilation led to the 1992 release of 11 more Infocom titles in The Lost Treasures of Infocom II.

Activision published the first-person perspective MechWarrior in 1989, based on FASA's pen-and-pencil game BattleTech. Activision released the sequel, MechWarrior 2, in 1995 after two years of delays and internal struggles. Because of these delays, FASA decided against renewing their licensing deal with Activision. To counter, Activision released several more games bearing the MechWarrior 2 name, which did not violate their licensing agreement. These included NetMech, MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bears Legacy, and MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. The entire MechWarrior 2 game series accounted for more than US$70 million in sales.[21]

Activision procured the license to another pen-and-paper-based war-game, Heavy Gear, in 1997. It was well received by critics, with an 81.46% average rating on gamerankings.com and being considered the best game of the genre at the time by GameSpot. The Mechwarrior 2 engine was also used in other Activision games, including 1997's Interstate '76 and finally 1998's Battlezone.[22]

Acquisitions and partnerships

Year Acquisition
1997 Raven Software made an exclusive publishing deal with Activision and was subsequentally acquired by them. This partnership resulted in Hexen II, Heretic II, Soldier of Fortune, its sequel and Quake 4. That same year, Activision acquired CentreSoft Ltd., (an independent distributor in the United Kingdom) and NBG Distribution (a German distributor).
1998 Pandemic Studios was founded with an equity investment by Activision. Pandemic's first two games, Battlezone II: Combat Commander and Dark Reign 2, were both sequels to Activision games. That same year, Activision also inked deals with Marvel Entertainment, Head Game Publishing, Disney Interactive, LucasArts Entertainment and CD Contact Data.
1999 Activision acquired Neversoft, best recognized for their line of Tony Hawk skateboarding games. That same year, Activision acquired Expert Software (maker of Home Design 3D).
2000 Activision made an equity investment in Gray Matter Interactive, to develop the follow-up to id Software's Wolfenstein 3D.
2001 Activision acquired rights to Columbia Pictures' feature film Spider-Man. That same year, Activision also acquired Treyarch.
2002 Activision made an equity investment in Infinity Ward, a newly formed studio comprising 22 of the individuals who developed Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. That same year, Activision acquired Z-Axis Ltd. (the studio behind Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX) and Luxoflux Corporation.
2003 Activision and DreamWorks SKG inked a multi-year, multi-property publishing agreement. That same year, Activision also formed a partnership with Valve and acquired both Infinity Ward (developers of the Call of Duty franchise) and software developer Shaba Games LLC.

Activision and Sega made a deal to publish the US releases of PC versions of some titles, especially Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut.

Activision, along with several other game software publishers, was investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for its accounting practices, namely the use of the "return reserve" to allegedly smooth quarterly results.

2004 The company marked its 25th anniversary, and stated that it had posted record earnings and the twelfth consecutive year of revenue growth.
2005 Activision acquired ShaderWorks, acquired game developers Vicarious Visions, Toys For Bob and Beenox.
2006 Activision secured the video game license to make games based on the world of James Bond from MGM Interactive. An exclusive agreement between the two begins in September 2007 with Activision's first game set for release in May 2008 being developed by Treyarch, Beenox and Vicarious Visions.[23] Also in 2006, Activision acquired publisher RedOctane, Inc. (the publisher of the Guitar Hero franchise).
2007 Activision acquired the control of games developer Bizarre Creations.

Activision acquired Irish multiplayer technology company Demonware.[24]

2008 Merger with Vivendi (who owned Blizzard) to become Activision Blizzard.[25]
2008 Activision acquired UK games studio FreeStyleGames.[26]
2009 Activision acquired Los Angeles based developer 7 Studios.[27]
2010 Partnership with Bungie.[28]

Activision announced that Sledgehammer Games will be making Call of Duty games.

Merger with Vivendi

In December 2007, it was announced that Activision would merge with Vivendi Games, which owns fellow games developer and publisher Blizzard, and the merger would close in July 2008. The new company is called Activision Blizzard and is headed by Activision's former CEO, Robert Kotick. Vivendi is the biggest shareholder in the new group.[29] The new company is estimated to be worth US$18.9 billion, ahead of Electronic Arts, which is valued at US$14.1 billion.[30]

Post-merger developments

Sledgehammer Games was founded on November 17, 2009 by Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey,[31] who left Electronic Arts subsidiary, Visceral Games.[32][33][34]

The Sledgehammer Games micro site went live on December 8, 2009 with information on the studio development team, location, and current job openings. Speculation on the studio's next game has been offered by industry sites, Kotaku and Gamasutra.[35] The studio's first game was originally planned to be a first-person shooter in the Call of Duty series, with rumors of MMO aspects, as revealed on their website[36] on June 19, 2010. However, after the resignation of many Infinity Ward employees, Sledgehammer Games was brought in to help with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.[37]

On Feb. 9, 2011 Activision announced that it was shuttering its once profitable Guitar Hero franchise, in the process doing a reduction in force of appox. 500 people. At the same time it announced that it was discontinuing development of True Crime: Hong Kong, and that it was refocusing its efforts into a new online service (dubbed "BeachHead") for its IP Call of Duty. At the same meeting these announcements were made, Activision reported net losses of $233-million for fourth quarter 2010.[10]

As of recent, Activision has restarted its in-house development team. Their first game that they will launch as a developer and not a publisher is set to be Generator Rex: Agent of Providence.[38]

Studios

Current

Defunct

Sold

Notable games published

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s

  • Blur (2010)
  • Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011 (2010)
  • Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 2 (2010)
  • GoldenEye 007 (2010)
  • James Bond 007: Blood Stone (2010)
  • Singularity (2010)
  • Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (2010)
  • Transformers: War for Cybertron (2010)
  • NASCAR The Game 2011 (2011)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
  • Goldeneye 007: Reloaded (2011)
  • NASCAR Unleashed (2011)
  • Generator Rex: Agent of Providence
  • Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure (2011)

Upcoming games

2011

  • DreamWorks Super Star Kartz (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS)

2012

  • Prototype 2 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
  • Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

References

  1. ^ Activision 2008 Annual Report
  2. ^ Alex Pham. "Activision pulls plug on Guitar Hero, laying off 500 workers". Los Angeles Times. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2011/02/activision-guitar-hero-layoffs-call-of-duty-beachhead.html. 
  3. ^ "Activision". http://www.linkedin.com/companies/activision. Retrieved November 26, 2010. 
  4. ^ Activision – Investor Relations: Historical Timeline from Activision's official website
  5. ^ Zoom
  6. ^ "Activision Beats EA As Top Third Party Publisher In U.S.". Gamasutra. http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=14803. Retrieved July 24, 2007. 
  7. ^ Video Game News, Video Game Coverage, Video Game Updates, PC Game News, PC Game Coverage – GameDaily
  8. ^ Regarding Vivendi – Activision merger and expectations
  9. ^ Call of Duty Black Ops demonstration at Microsoft E3 2010 – YouTube (IGN)
  10. ^ a b "Activision pulls plug on Guitar Hero, laying off 500 workers". Los Angeles Times. February 9, 2011. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2011/02/activision-guitar-hero-layoffs-call-of-duty-beachhead.html. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  11. ^ Tom Ivan. "Guitar Hero 'on hiatus' for now – Activision". ComputerAndVideoGames. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/297719/news/guitar-hero-on-hiatus-for-now-activision. 
  12. ^ "Classic Gaming Expo Distinguished Guest: Alan Miller". Classic Gaming Expo. http://www.cgexpo.com/bios/amiller.htm. Retrieved August 30, 2006. 
  13. ^ Ice Hockey Instructions, page 4. Activision 1981
  14. ^ Pitfall! Instructions, page 4. Activision 1982
  15. ^ Chopper Command Instructions, page 4. Activision 1982
  16. ^ Ice Hockey instructions, page 3. Activision 1981
  17. ^ Pitfall! Instructions, page 3. Activision, 1982
  18. ^ Chopper Command Instructions, page 3. Activision 1982
  19. ^ Chopper Command patch[dead link] on eBay
  20. ^ Down From the Top of Its Game: The Story of Infocom, Inc. report from MIT
  21. ^ MechWarrior History
  22. ^ Mechwarrior History
  23. ^ iTZKooPA (August 22, 2007). "Activision Dates 'Call of Duty 4'; Drops Word on Bond Title". Totalgaming.net. http://tgnforums.stardock.com/index.aspx?AID=160877. Retrieved August 22, 2007. 
  24. ^ Activision confirms Demonware acquisition | News
  25. ^ Blizzard Entertainment – Press Release
  26. ^ Bramwell, Tom (October 28, 2008). "Activision man confirms DJ Hero". Eurogamer (Eurogamer Network). http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/activision-man-confirms-dj-hero. Retrieved November 10, 2008. 
  27. ^ "Activision Blizzard Announces Better-Than-Expected Second Quarter CY 2009 Financial Results". Activision. August 15, 2009. http://investor.activision.com/releasedetail.cfm?releaseid=401548. 
  28. ^ Brian Ashcraft. "Halo Developer Joins Forces With Activision". Kotaku. http://kotaku.com/5527119/halo-developer-joins-forces-with-activision. 
  29. ^ "Vivendi and Activision to create Activision Blizzard – World's Largest, Most Profitable Pure-Play Video Game Publisher" (Press release). Activision, Vivendi. December 2, 2007. Archived from the original on April 9, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080409211320/http://www.activisionblizzard.com/pressReleases/pr120207.php. Retrieved December 2, 2007. 
  30. ^ Activision-Vivendi to Shake Up Games Biz
  31. ^ "Michael Condrey". MobyGames. http://www.mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId,27510/. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  32. ^ "News: Activision cracks EA with Sledgehammer". ComputerAndVideoGames.com. November 18, 2009. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=227584. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  33. ^ "Activision Publishing Hires Industry Veterans Glen A. Schofield and Michael Condrey to Lead Sledgehammer Games – Yahoo! Finance". Finance.yahoo.com. November 17, 2009. http://investor.activision.com/releasedetail.cfm?releaseid=424906. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  34. ^ Andy Chalk posted on Nov 18, 2009 16:02 (November 18, 2009). "The Escapist : News : EA Vets Launch New Activision Studio". Escapistmagazine.com. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/96205-EA-Vets-Launch-New-Activision-Studio. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  35. ^ "Sledgehammer Games Goes Online, Needs Help – Sledgehammer games". Kotaku. December 8, 2009. http://kotaku.com/5421701/sledgehammer-games-goes-online-needs-help. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  36. ^ "Sledgehammer Games working on new Call of Duty". Extra Guy. June 19, 2010. http://www.extraguy.com/2010/06/sledgehammer-games-working-on-new-call-of-duty/. Retrieved June 19, 2010. 
  37. ^ "Modern Warfare 3 on track for November". Fudzilla. January 21, 2011. http://www.fudzilla.com/home/item/21615-modern-warfare-3-on-track-for-november. Retrieved January 27, 2011. 
  38. ^ "Activision is developing again.". http://www.joystiq.com/2011/05/06/activision-generates-generator-rex-agent-of-providence-this-f/. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  39. ^ "Activision lays off about 200 employees, shuts down Santa Monica studio Luxoflux". Los Angeles Times. February 11, 2010. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2010/02/activision-lays-off-200-shuts-luxoflux.html. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  40. ^ Michael McWhertor. "Activision Lays Off Shaba's Ranks, Closes Studio (Update)". Kotaku. http://kotaku.com/5376826/activision-lays-off-shabas-ranks-closes-studio. 
  41. ^ Activision confirms Shaba Studios closure | News
  42. ^ a b Luke Plunkett. "Activision Shutters Guitar Hero Creators, GH: Van Halen Developers (Update)". Kotaku. http://kotaku.com/5470149/activision-shutters-guitar-hero-creators-gh-van-halen-developers. 
  43. ^ Activision Acquires U.K. Game Developer Bizarre Creations from Activision's website

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