How much Activision does it take to change a Blizzard?


You give him way too much credit. Anyone who was not a moron could have taken the CoD franchise for the ride it did and ended up near where they are today. He came in at a great time in their history and rode the wave then took credit for being some kind of mastermind. Pumping out a billion CoD’s is not brilliant.


Reading wiki, Activision was heavily in debt and the first thing he did was fire everyone except 8 people apparently :)
But of course I would never ascribe all of Activision’s success solely to him. Still though, it is much easier to lose money than to make money, and the company grew immensely and provided jobs for lot of people with him in charge.

I appreciate the passion and I don’t want you to think that I am some hearless unempathetic monster.
But being employed is, at the end, a business relationship based on a contract. I work for a multinational corporation (50K employees). Been here a decade, but I am perfectly 100% aware that I can be laid off at any time for any reason and I am fine with that. Just like I can quit the company anytime I want, the company can quit me any time it wants. The company is not entitled to my time and labour and I am not automatically entitled to its money for my salary. Even if it would suck because I like the people here who have become friends. And because I am aware of this, I put part of my salary into savings so I can survive without work for as long as possible if needed.

Fair enough, that is a good question.

I mean, he came in when the company was failing, 11 years before CoD was a thing.


Here in “socialist Europe” (the Netherlands), it’s not possible to “just” fire an employee unless you have a pressing reason (they stole from you, you’re bankrupt, etc.). Here, if your employer wants to get rid of you, they either have to wait until your contract expires (if you don’t have a permanent contract) or they have to negotiate with you (read: give you enough money until you agree to quit). There’s a third option (go to the government or the courts), but that’s seldom used. Oh, you also get unemployment benefits (70% of your last earned salary for at least three months, up to quite a bit longer depending on how many years you’ve worked in total).

It’s utterly baffling to me that in a country like the United States, there are seemingly no laws at all to protect employees. I cannot imagine living with that kind of uncertainty.

You don’t need unions. You need laws that actually protect the people doing the work.


We used to have laws, then republicans destroyed them.


Yes, it is the current usual investment strategy. The fold the company, or merge it, or sell it, and go look for a healthy company to buy with the cash.

Rental housing, as well as games are new targets. Since both have proven they are sectors where you can grind out cash as the capital (games studios or houses) decays. According to some articles (not sure this recent one mentions it), the firms doing this are using pension funds they manage for the cash. So they can wipe out your job, your rental house and what ever pension you have now, all in one go. And walk off with the cash looking for the next thing to raid and run down.

This isn’t “capitalism” per se. The definition is who owns the capital. But that ownership is hidden behind structures that protect the owners from any failures, and other laws allow socialization of the losses (ironically). The issue is the people with the capital, or in the case where they’re managing your money to make money*, they only care about short return, and he who dies with the most toys wins (as I’ve had it described to me, they were comparing yachts). When the oligarchs and financial managers compete with each other on that metric, mostly, and we all lose.

* check out both (lack of in US) fiduciary rules and how preferred stock works on backruptcy, the rich eat their own (poorer investors) as well as your money (pension funds).

Say what you want about their politics **, but the Koch’s and others, that have strong companies free from the trampling of investors can do by keeping those entities private. Berkshire-Hathaway is an exception, but is still tightly controlled, limiting investors to making money (which they are happy to do), and got big by being heavily into well-regulated sectors (insurance). Capitalism then works quite well, for them, and with regulation for stability in financial vehicles (aka insurance).

Recent attempts in finance to regulate or limit the damage the “plague of locust” type investors do have all failed. Companies either protect themselves via specific structures, or remain private. Blizzard looks like it has neither?

I guess one other nice thing about supporting indie studios is you keep your money out of the hands of the locusts for a little while anyway.

** will go to politics if anyone wants to go there


Touché. My heart goes out to the US, it really does.


Don’t mind me, I was just being flippant. :) I just always find if an NBA team wins a championship, it’s the players that won it. No one says “Joe Lacob and Bob Meyers have won three championships in the last four years!”. Sure, they might get a nod for good management (and they clearly play an important part!), but ultimately it’s the players that win the championship.

That all changes in the business world, where it’s the CEO who makes a massively successful company while the hundreds or thousands of employees who developed the infrastructure, designed, built, marketed, and sold the product are disposable cogs that had nothing to do with the success. It was all the doing of people like Bobby Kotick, so if hundreds or thousands of people get tossed into the dumpster for a bump in the stock price, no big loss. It’s always rankled me a bit. :)


You make a good argument for socialism. :)


That was indeed sarcasm. I really don’t think you’re a heartless bastard, but it’s harsh to see something like that after 800 people just got shown the door.

I am not actually anti-Capitalism, but I do question some of the long-term visions of these people in charge of these large companies because a lot of it seems short-term / temporary type decision making. 8% is not a small amount. Even healthy companies shed and hire, but hopefully in more transparent ways.

Usually the first ones we here from are going to be the angry and bitter ones, the people surprised even if they aren’t really surprised, Later there will be more an eventually we get those 20 page story bits on it.

No one wants to be laid off. I’ve been through it a few times, one was a organization decision, the other head on fire after months of seeing red on the books, no literally, our department did the profit reports and there just… wasn’t any… When these gaming companies do it though it just seems ick, like more than usual. Activision isn’t even the only company that did it recently. I swear there were a few more in the news.


Unfortunately, I can personally confirm that the packages were very reasonable. The outreach from the industry has been fantastic as well.


I agree, obviously developers who do the actual work are essential. Funnily enough though in Kotick’s case, from what I ever read about him he doesn’t seem to have the best reputation, generally for success of Activison’s games I saw other people credited (Zampella, West, guys from Blizzard like Morhaime or Kaplan).

My parents lived in it, in the nonscandinavian (which is actually capitalism with social net) version and so that is the last argument I would want to make, dammit :)

Good post. I don’t think capitalism is perfect, particularly with the publicly owned companies there can be perverse incentives and since it all depends on people in the end, and people can be assholes, results can be ugly. But I will always take capitalism (in as much as I can call it that when 62% of my monthly salary goes to government) that we have know, when we can freely start companies and prices are determined by supply and demand of people instead of ignorant central authorities, over the alternative.

The nice thing about capitalism is that if someone wants to work in a company where “workers own the means of production”, they are perfectly free to do that and there are such companies (in gaming, Motion Twin for example, outside gaming there is WinCo or Mondragon). No need for another system wide revolution that will lead to widespread violence and misery.


Of course, I was just joking, mostly. I lived too long in the shadow of the Wall in Germany (and had brief encounters on the opposite side of it) during the bad old days to have any illusions about Soviet-style socialism. I do have a strong affinity for “capitalism with a human face,” to twist a phrase; when private capital and public interest actually cooperate for the common good, you can really do a lot for all sides.

My only real point I suppose is that, while your description of our system is spot-on in terms of who has the power to hire and fire, and how the ethical framework of capitalism is very clear about how those lines of power work, I’ve never been totally reconciled to the idea that that is how it should work. In a society where employment is the key to health care and the ability to have even the most basic requirements for life, the power to terminate employment at will is perhaps a bit too much to trust to often arbitrary and self-interested parties.

Absolutely. Two things though. Supply and demand is an abstract concept. In actuality, without active regulation and monitoring, the market ends up being influenced by a host of forces old Adam Smith would have balked at, leading to something far from open or free. And, of course, being able to freely start a company depends a lot on a level playing field, something business is not well suited to provide but government can be (not all governments have to be ignorant, though goodness knows most attempts at central planning itself have been and probably always will be disastrous).


In the US, it’s normal to confuse communism with socialism? I mean, here in Europe, socialism is capitalism with a social safety net. Socialism isn’t anti-capitalism, communism is. I always find it a little worrisome that Americans seem to conflate the two, as if it’s either free-market, every-man-for-himself capitalism or bust.


Sometime it’s that. Sometimes it’s “democratic socialism”. Sometimes it’s anarcho-syndicalism. Sometimes it’s communism. It can be any of those and still call itself “socialism”. You’re as wrong as the people you are criticising.



Cheers. I was merely making the point that socialism isn’t the same as communism. I then pointed out that here, in Europe, socialism is capitalism with a social safety net. Communism is a more narrow political ideology than socialism is. I don’t think you actually disagree with me.

@forgeforsaken That’s perfect.


Sorry you were affected by the layoffs but happy that outreach has been strong.


I would like to think only the dogmatic and moronic get confused but that is untrue. Americans are quite ignorant of most other political and economic systems and tend to lump them all together. If it is not free-market it is evil communism regardless of the other possibilities that exist in the spectrum.


Well yes, but that’s a solid ~40% of the population, so it’s pretty normal.


Like “liberal” it’s a kneejerk reaction triggering slur for that forty percent who will have no desire to understand it