How much Activision does it take to change a Blizzard?


#38

I’m not really a fan of his, but I share his frustration on this topic. I hate how even having something so ridiculously successful as $10 billion in profit per year isn’t good enough. If you made $10 billion last year, you better make $12 billion this year or else the investors are going to flee.

I get the POV of investors looking for a (relatively) quick turnaround on their investment so that they can rush off to the Next Big Thing, but it’s completely unrealistic and unsustainable. A lot of my frustration probably stems from the eight awful years I spent working for a corporation that worked exactly as described in the video. Profits had to be increased each year, and since new products took time to develop, the way to reach those margins was by rampant layoffs and shoving products out the door long before they were ready (and then cutting loose before fixing them).

Blech. I haven’t enjoyed a Blizzard game since maybe 2004, but this is still sad to see. They were my absolute favorite developer for a long time. Ah well, time to put them up in the museum with my other favorites from the past like Origin and Bullfrog.


#39

The problem with investors is that rather than just competing with your competitors, you’re competing with everything that generates profit in the world.


#40

The problem is tech is still so young that all stocks grouped in “tech” is considered a growth stock, so you have pretty established companies still trying to operate as a growth stock as opposed to a value stock to fit an investor profile.


#41

Yep, good question on the cum. But I’ve got a more fundamental issue. (though this one isn’t just about Sterling, but more on this youtube commentator genre)

Why is that a video? I don’t really remember anything in there that requires much visual aid or even images, why doesn’t he just write a blog?
He’s got some points and if you cut out the cum & lots of repetition, you’d reduce the length by 20% and waste less of my time.

So, instead of ranting 22min in a video format, why not just post a shorter written version on a blog somewhere? Wouldn’t that be less work for him as well? (no need to record or edit video footage)


#42

I can see your point.

I do tend to listen while I’m eating or playing a Hearthstone match though, and both the format and his repetition are benefits here. I wouldn’t be able to consume written content as easily in these situations.

But maybe if it were a written blog I’d have a moment to give more thought to his points when read in isolation.


#43

Yeah. Corporate America can suck a bag of gizzards.


#44

#45

Because people don’t read nearly as much as they watch videos. Most YouTube videos are people talking to the camera or over images/sequences that could just as easily be removed. You can (potentially) reach a much larger audience on YouTube than you can via your blog/website. Increasing reach and (thereby) earning (some/more) money is far more easily done by using video than text.

After all, it’s the reason why films and TV shows are generally more popular (and therefore potentially much more profitable) than books.

Edit: And while I was writing the above @sillhouette posted a relevant video. Oh, the irony. ;-)


#46

If you made $10 billion last year, you better make $12 billion this year or else the investors are going to flee.

It is worse than that - if you made $10 billion last year, you had better make what the financial brokers EXPECT or estimate you to make this year or else they will punish you by fleeing the stock.

You could make $12 billion and they expected $12.5 billion and they will flee - and actually it is more based on earnings per share than raw dollar amounts.


#47

It’s is indeed ironic that it’s actually better to find a niche where you make a decent, but not crazy, amount of money, than to make an insane buttload of it.

The first generation of people in a company actually care about making a product, or providing a service, whether it’s their passion or it’s just something they fell into. But make enough money, and now the buzzards arrive, with their offer of extra capital for expansion – at a cost. Soon enough, the company is transformed into a money-making machine, compared to every other money-making machine. Every person who cared about the actual thing the company was meant to do either leaves, is bought out, or is fired. And the ‘owners’ of the company - assuming it’s public - only care about extracting money from it as well.


#48

#49

Blizzard has people working in publishing? Like, novels and toys and such for their own properties, I guess?

Regarding Jim Sterling, he’s extremely sharp and I typically agree with his take of the day, but his schtick can be grating.


#50

I don’t agree. Decent money attracts “buzzards” proportionally—probably the buzzards who were rejected from the crazy rich company. You only need a few bad people entrenched at a small company to ruin it. It does take different skills to kick 300 buzzards out than to kick 3 out, though.


#51

Again, I see people conflating growth investor strategy with the market as a whole as some sort of indictment against capitalism.

Ask Warren Buffet what he thinks about growth stocks. Ask Coca Cola if they are at a point where they care about earnings growth. You won’t see them cutting jobs for the sake of growth.

The problem again is that we focus so much on tech companies where growth is the objective, but their market positions no longer support that strategy.

Activision is operating as a value company but appeasing growth investors. They are foundationally disorganized.


#52

Yeah, I agree with that assessment. They have a strong portfolio. It’s among the strongest in all of gaming. They should not be treating their business like they are on edge of disaster.


#53

Who says they are?

Maybe the “publishing” business at Blizzard was exclusively people dealing with Destiny 2 and Call of Duty in the Battle.net app, and they simply aren’t needed anymore because Activision (correctly) decided that was a stupid idea?

And the esports side, maybe that just wasn’t seen as worthwhile to continue? I certainly don’t give a shit about it.


#54

Seems like this sort of thing though is part for the course in the business world. I seriously doubt shareholders (the ones that matter that is) will bat an eyelid.

Also, in reference to nothing in particular, I’m wondering how folks can be so sure that it’s a matter of evil Activision imposing its evil on innocent Blizzard. It’s also quite possible that the folks leading Blizzard are just as much involved. At least insofar as the Blizzard folks who made the decision years ago to sell to Activision must have known the sort of road they were setting out on, it’s hard to paint them as innocents.


#55

This would be my first thought as well. As much as it looks like Blizzard is showing some bad signs of falling apart, it’s completely possible they staffed up for parts of their business that isn’t really needed any more. I don’t keep up much with what’s hot in esports, but they seem to have made a push to put Overwatch, Heart of the Storm, and (to a lesser degree) WoW up there. From the outside, it appears WoW is continuing to wane, and they’re closing Heart of the Storm’s esports, so maybe a lot of these folks are from there? I have no idea how Overwatch is doing, but the competition keeps growing in that field.


#56

The thrust of the thread-starting article was a recap of how Activision has replaced the decision-makers at Blizzard over the last year or so with their execs. That’s not to say the remaining Blizzard folks didn’t march in step with the new leaders, but the article does talk about how that change impacted the culture at Blizzard, including financial decisions.


#57

Well yes, the CEO left and people were all flustered over that, then Activision was much more heavy-handed. They let Blizzard do its thing when WoW had 15+ million subscribers and they kept churning out hits like Hearthstone and Overwatch, but HoTS failing and both Hearthstone and Overwatch fading transformed it into a what have you done for me lately type situation.

Remember, Activision is run by Bobby Kotick. He doesn’t give a shit about gaming. He could be selling tampons or windshield wipers and his approach would not differ.

That said, it’s unclear what the hell Blizzard publishes, and esports for fading titles doesn’t seem like a revenue generator, if it indeed ever was. So cutting those divisions isn’t a crazy thing to do.