i agree with something bobby kotick said.
This must mean the end is nigh, people. The world is about to be torn asunder. Stock up on canned goods.
In fact, even though he has a way of making even the most innocuous, corporate-responsibility remarks seem as though they’re slathered in avarice, I can’t even take much issue with the way he said it.
It’s not organized into a convenient sound bite (thanks Gamasutra), so if you don’t want to click the link there what it boils down to is this: Kotick feels that the PC gaming space is underrepresented and would like to support more active PC development.
I would hate to see the PC continue to suffer as an entertainment platform, and I like the idea of big publishers supporting more PC development. But my backing for Kotick’s remarks ends there – because he’s not talking about generally supporting the PC, he’s talking about monetizing Windows-based multiplayer. If he said they’d be supporting more innovation, new IP, and independent development on the PC, hell, I might kiss the man then.
The Microsoft Games for Windows Twitter blog was quick to respond: “Acti supports PC Gaming? Is it April already?” Touché. Not that Microsoft supports PC gaming very much, but still.
Now of course, Kotick’s main gripe – and this goes back to my slathered-with-avarice crack – is that (according to him) 60% of Xbox Live subscribers are only there for Call of Duty multiplay, and Activision/Blizzard doesn’t get any money from that. Of course, they don’t get a revenue stream from those who play CoD online on their PCs either, but the company could – and presumably will – one day set up its own (paid) online service and require gamers to subscribe to that if they want to kill each other.
Now personally I think it’s reaching to say that 60% of XBL subscribers (PSN is free so it doesn’t count) are ONLY there for Call of Duty, but I do agree that the game represents a very, very large portion of why subscribers continue to shell out every month. And as a CEO, part of Kotick’s job is to monetize his products in whatever way possible. So far he’s chosen strategies like denying promised royalties to his top-performing studios, then firing their leadership when they complain, or driving franchises so hard into the ground they come out the other side. But this would be a valid approach too.
Of course, PC gamers are a rowdy bunch. Would they pay for exclusive multiplayer access to Actvision/Blizzard games? The infrastructure is already in place – Blizzard has been working very hard bringing Battle.Net up to snuff in anticipation of Starcraft II, and while Battle.Net is currently free there’s no reason it needs to be. And I suspect that what Kotick has in mind would be a Battle.Net type of matchmaking and game hosting service, not a Steam type of environment… though again, there’s no reason Battle.Net couldn’t be expanded to deliver that. But the original question: would PC gamers pony up for multiplayer access to these games?
Well… maybe. I would say “yes,” especially if the price is low, because people do love their Calls of Duty. Thing is, though, it seems to me much more likely that they’d just buy Call of Duty 1×10^53: War Between the States for their consoles and play on a service that’s either free (PSN) or to which they’re already subscribed (XBL). So unless Activision – which Kotick said would “aggressively support” more PC game development, is willing to be aggressive enough to start shipping PC exclusive games, then this is a dicey proposition.
The other issue is that while yes, many people subscribe to XBL in part because of Call of Duty, Kotick just got finished dismantling the studio primarily responsible for it. Infinity Ward exists now largely in name only; Treyarch, the other Call of Duty franchiser, may not be able to deliver the same goods.
The PC world is and always has been fertile, if challenging, ground for game development. It’s enjoying a bit of a resurgence these days, thanks to Steam and some truly amazing independent games, as well as what we’re seeing from Russia and Eastern Europe – a very creative region that’s always favored PC development. So what it boils down to isn’t that Kotick “supports PC gaming,” he supports things that will make him money. I don’t like him and I hope that he dies of intestinal worms, but if A/B helps support the PC even as a corollary to the CEO’s actual goal of turning more profit, well, I can’t really condemn it.
Would you pay for multiplay on PC? I’m not talking MMOs, that’s another animal. Would you pay, say, $65 a year for a Battle.Net style service that allows you unfettered access to multiplay in a large library of games, like Activision’s? You still have to buy the games, of course. Discuss!
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I would not pay for multiplayer. I don’t like it. The only on-line multiplayer that I have ever really enjoyed was “Left 4 Dead” and that was when all four people (or 8 in those few, glorious occassions) were people I knew.
Back in the day we had some “lan” type games of Starcraft, Warcraft II and some version of Quake. We’d take over a few PCs at the campus computer lab or use PCs at our friend’s work place on the weekend. Those were glorious good times, too. But, again, those were only with people I knew.
That said, I, too, support PC gaming. I bought 4 games last week alone: BioShock, BioShock II, Deus Ex, and Thief! I think, in toto, it was under $25 and I never even had to leave the Sweltering Hot Box of Death that is my house.
Are we back to this again?
Everything old is new again in the games industry. Kotick has been at the head of Activision and now ActiBlizzard (or whatever) that he should have been around for the early 90’s when it was predicted that multiplayer was the future of games.
Gamers, stubbornly, refused to let go of the single-player experience. Many multi-player only title was released and died on the vine. Consider these were non-subscription based games as well. I still wonder how successful Tribes would have been if it wasn’t so ridiculously pirated. They even had the game manual in its entirety posted on-line. I think Sierra was hoping they could plop down some copy protection and convert the pirates to paying customers with Tribes 2. How did that work out again?
Multi-player games have a strong draw and I won’t deny it. However, looking at the stat tracking mygamercard.net, only about 10% of ANY game, single-player or otherwise, is ever connected to X-Box Live. Even Modern Warfare 2 last time I checked. Multi-player is overrepresented by its very nature. How is MAG doing on the PS3? Just over a half-million copies? Hell, I would have bought MAG if it had some kind of off-line component. It’s an outstanding testament to how small the audience really is for the multi-player experience.
The trends and information are all there. There is no goose laying golden eggs on-line. They already have WoW, possibly one of the few games making money as a multi-player only experience. Shouldn’t that be a clue right there?
I’m seriously starting to question Kotick’s business acumen.
I would absolutely not pay for an online PC gaming service. I would especially not be open to paying just to play Activision games.
Kotick’s remarks about XBL subscribers is very amusing; I’m a gold subscriber and it certainly isn’t for any Call of Duty game, as I own those on PC. The only multi-player I actually fire up on my Xbox is Left 4 Dead and very, very rarely Gears of War 2 (and even that is to co-op with friends).
Just look at the 2 top selling games of 2010 according to recent figures I read on Metacritic:
1. God of War 3 (PS3 – single player)
2. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii – single player)
The next three are Read Dead Redemption (PS3 and X360 versions) and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The former is certainly a single player focused game despite including a multi player portion. The latter could definitely be argued as a multi player game, but that accounts to basically 1 of the top 5.
A good single player game is still where the money is at. Unless you’re WoW; and in that case there is no such thing as a WoW-killer, it will be successful until the day the servers die, so everyone should be less concerned with “killing” it and more concerned with their own creativity.
If Battle.net begins to charge for their service…well, I won’t be surprised, but I will be sad. If they feel the need to implement a fee it should be very low, like $1 a month. Blizzard could have a few extra million dollars per year for doing nothing, and the players could probably live with the few cups of coffee a year they have to give away. Monthly fees on par with MMOs, however, would be disappointing.
Maybe it will stay free. Who knows?
Blizzard has stated that it has no intention of monetizing Battle.Net, and if Kotick were to do something on a paid basis I doubt he’d use Battle.Net specifically so much as lessons learned and available code assets. Blizzard operates as an independent entity (for now; so did Infinity Ward) and takes little interest in what happens outside its own walls. But the intellectual infrastructure is there, so Acti wouldn’t have to build the service from scratch. Alternatively, they could buy an existing service like GameTap.
Jason O, I agree – you’re basically saying there’s room for both single and multiplayer, but this pot of gold at the end of the multiplayer rainbow doesn’t exist and never existed. What we have is a few successful products that create the illusion of a vast untapped blue ocean of possibility. I just don’t see it. Games like Bad Company 2, that are mostly multi and have a cursory single player experience, can do well… in a model based on buying the game, not on buying the game AND paying a monthly fee to play online.
I’m not a multiplayer person myself, unless it’s with friends, and even then I prefer splitscreen games. If Kotick wants to support the PC, great. But I don’t think this idea is going to hold much water.
I concur that launching a successful multi-player gaming service for the PC is very hard to pull off. For every moderately lucrative one, there are enough failures to fill up all that empty space in Bobby Kotick’s soul, hehehe.