Activision boss Bobby Kotick thinks that the publishing giant could stand to learn a thing or two from its Blizzard branch in terms of quality control.
Bobby Kotick has become the bogeyman of the games industry these days. There's no one man that gamers love to hate more (other than Thompson, J. or Atkinson, M. of course), which is interesting because he's also undoubtedly one of the most powerful figures in gaming right now. But it seems that you can't turn a corner without gamers and press alike blaming him for every single wrong in the industry from the lack of dedicated servers in Modern Warfare 2 to, I don't know, killing babies in Dante's Inferno.
Which is why it's interesting that the guy comes off so... well, reasonably in the feature interview in the latest Game Informer. There's some interesting stuff in there, from his experience addicted to Sierra games in college to his entrance into the industry in the '80s, but also on more relevant stuff, like Kotick's thoughts on franchises, the value of new IP, etc. This same interview has generated news already, from the existence of a new DJ Hero, to a prediction about PC developer Blizzard that went very, very wrong.
It's actually speaking about the Blizzard branch of the Activision-Vivendi merger where we hear one of the most frank admissions of fault from Kotick in quite some time. In relating an anecdote about one of the first joint management presentations between his folks and Blizzard's, Kotick recalled how Mike Morhaime, Paul Sams and Rob Pardo were stunned by Activision producers behind movie games and kid-focused games who were shooting for Metacritic scores around the 75-80% range.
Their response, says Kotick, was essentially "Why would you ever target an 80-rated game?" The producers answered that, since they saw most game reviewers as having biases against kid games and movie games and marking them down in turn, an 80 was "a good rating for a kid's game or a movie game."
"I remember walking out of the meeting saying, 'Why would we make an 80 rated game?' Even adjusting for genre. ... I was thinking that when we did the great Spider-Man PlayStation game, we got a 95 rating. You can make a great game. Our Spider-Man games have sucked for the last five years. They are bad games. They were poorly rated because they were bad games."
"If you don't do web-slinging right, what is the fantasy of Spider-Man? But I think that was one of those wake-up calls."
The five games in question, as noted by D'toid, are Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Spider-Man 3, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, Spider-Man: Battle for New York, and Ultimate Spider-Man. (If you count from 2009 or 2010, this might also include 2004's Spider-Man 2, as well).
It's still a very frank statement from a man infamous for his concern with the bottom line, and to be honest, it's a bit refreshing. It would also be really kind of ironic (and amusing) if this were evidence of a newfound commitment to quality from Activision even as all the rest of the major publishers start swinging back in the opposite direction from their momentary gaming Renaissance.