INTERVIEW: Activision

What does the Bizarre acquisition give Activision?

Bizarre Creations consists of two incredibly talented development teams, and is one of the biggest innovators in racing games. We’ve brought a great developer into the Activision family, and acquired racing expertise. Activision now has the opportunity to enter a $1.4 billion genre within video games.

How long has the Bizarre deal been in the works?

We have on-going conversations with independent developers all over the world and we’ve been speaking to Bizarre Creations on and off over the years. But the real focus came in the last few months as we started discussing working together. At that point it became apparent that there was an opportunity to have Bizarre Creations join the Activision family.

What makes you confident the relationship will be fruitful?

As we kept talking with Bizarre it just seemed like a good fit for how we treat developers and a good fit for them as we like our studios to remain independent. So even though they are part of Activision’s family their leadership, team structure, even their culture will remain in place.

Are you looking to acquire any more developers?

We’re always looking for great development talent if there’s an opportunity for a long-term relationship. If you look at our history we’ve acquired great talent over the years.

It’s early days, but what can you tell us about the new racing game you hope to introduce with Bizarre?

It’s very much a global franchise. One of the advantages of Bizarre Creations we are excited about is the fact that they are located on the European continent and they can bring that expertise and mindset of the racing category to our game. Racing is very much a mega-genre, particularly in Europe. So the game will have a global feel which leverages a combination of the best of action racing and sim racing.

Are you looking to build a brand new racing franchise?

Absolutely. We believe in brands and franchises not individual titles, so we’ll be working with Bizarre to develop a great concept and brand in racing, as well as working with their second team, which is very talented in the action genre. This team will most probably be working on a property that Activision already owns.

Is it always better to own new IP – as you have with Call Of Duty – rather than bring in a franchise, like you do with games such as Spider-Man? Is that especially true given the cost of next-gen games?

Well, we see there’s still an opportunity for both kind of game on the market. We look where the consumer demand is. For example, there’s lots of consumer interest in IPs that are familiar to the public, such as Spider-Man, Shrek or Transformers. And there’s also great interest in specific genres. Look at Call of Duty – I think that game is a clear indication of how we’ll treat our move into the racing genre.

How do you think your success in the racing category will compare to others in the genre – such as EA, which also has a strong in-house resource and is a big player in the racing category?

I think we’ll do well as we’re aiming to make a high-quality franchise that will have high demand. I don’t like to do the compare and contrast thing but I can say our strength will lie in the fact that we plan to do something original, and I think that with Call of Duty for instance and titles such as Spider-Man and Tony Hawk that we can enter a genre and then lead it.

We are very confident in our ability to develop an idea that has great consumer interest. Bizarre Creations has the ability to deliver a great game that really delivers on that promise and is different from other things in that category and can lead it.

Bizarre is also known for XBLA titles – are you going to encourage them to keep developing for that?

Yes. Obviously the first priority is the large-scale titles, but they have a very interesting process in terms of their ability to develop games for Xbox Live and we’re interested in working with them on that.

What’s Activision’s strategy for Xbox Live Arcade overall?

We launched Doom Arcade last year which was incredibly popular and remains in the top ten on Xbox Live Arcade. And we’re working on several others right now which will be coming out this holiday. In the grand scheme of our business Xbox Live Arcade is relatively small but there’s an opportunity there and an increasing amount of growth.

The Bizarre acquisition also helps Activision get into categories you aren’t already in and widen your portfolio. Are there any other genres you plan to stake a claim in?

That’s not something we are prepared to answer just yet. But if you look at what we’re developing, and that we’re looking for new developers to work with – and potentially acquire more – I think it’s clear we want to expand the kinds of games we are able to offer consumers. Just look at what we’ve done with Guitar Hero – that’s a franchise with great growth potential, but is also something we’re helping push out to a wider audience when we release Guitar Hero III later this year for all formats, including the Wii.

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