Roland Li sends word that The New York Times has posted a four-page profile of Bobby Kotick, everyone’s “love to hate” CEO of Activision/Blizzard. As with all NYT material it’s well-written and informative, but (as you’d expect of a CEO profile in the Business section) it’s relentlessly flattering and positive. The article is lacking on any detailed critiques of his business techniques; all the anti-Bobby citations are played off as whines from financially-clueless hater gamers, and there’s no critical analysis of Activision’s “beat them into the ground” style of churning out yearly sequels at the (arguable) expense of better games and longer-lived franchises. The Infinity Ward thing is entirely given from Bobby’s PoV as well.
All that said, it’s a good read, the biography and timeline is is interesting in the details of how Bobby got his start managing entertainment businesses, some of the key deals he made in his early years, and how he made himself a billionaire in the process. Well worth a read. Quote:
In several online photographs he is depicted as the Devil, with red horns against a Hades-like background. On this particular Sunday, it’s those Photoshopped horns that really irk Mr. Kotick. He is seated at a corner table in the cavernous breakfast room of the Pierre hotel, across the street from Central Park, shaking a leg nervously and whispering in a conspiratorial hush.
“Think about what it’s like for my dating life when the first picture that comes up is me as the Devil,” says Mr. Kotick, who is recently divorced. “You see all this chatter and you realize that they game the search results. These super-sophisticated 19-year-olds are smarter than our expensive P.R. firm.” (His publicist, Steven Rubenstein, shrugs sheepishly.)
Mr. Kotick, 49, has reason to be annoyed. Not since the music industry’s heyday has there been a business with such a wide disparity between the popularity of its products and its customers’ perception of the chief executive who made those products possible. Video games are among the most successful segments in the entertainment industry, and the disdain heaped on Mr. Kotick in video game blogs is second only to the admiration for him on Wall Street.
Reading this, I got to reflecting on Diablo 3’s recent “almost a disaster” PvP non-updates/delays. For years a lot of us gamers have worried that Bobby’s hack-n-slash corporate rush rush techniques would infect Blizzard and ruin their games. Everyone at Blizzard has always denied that there’s any pressure from Activision on them, and said that Bobby and the rest are great publishers to work with. And if anything, D3’s PvP seems to prove their point. No way would a key dev team at a company under Bobby’s direct control fail to push out PvP within 2012.
True, it would probably have a system where you could only play 5 rounds a day unless you bought extra round tickets in the RMAH, but at least it would be there!