Activision

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Activision Publishing, Inc.
Subsidiary
Industry Computer and video games
Interactive entertainment
Founded October 1, 1979; 38 years ago (1979-10-01)
Founders David Crane
Alan Miller
Bob Whitehead
Larry Kaplan
Headquarters Santa Monica, California, United States
Number of locations
38 (studios and offices)
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Eric Hirshberg (CEO)[1]
Products List of Activision video games
Revenue Decrease$2.2 billion (2016)[2]
Number of employees
4000
Parent Activision Blizzard
Subsidiaries
Website activision.com
Footnotes / references
[3][4]

Activision Publishing, Inc. is an American video game publisher. It was founded on October 1, 1979[5] and was the world's first independent developer and distributor of video games for gaming consoles. Its first products were cartridges for the Atari 2600 video console system published from July 1980 for the US market and from August 1981 for the international market (UK).[6]

As of January 2017, Activision is one of the largest third party video game publishers in the world and was also the top publisher for 2016 in the United States.[7] Its parent company is Activision Blizzard, formed from the merger of Activision and Vivendi Games on July 9, 2008,[8] an entity which became a completely independent company on July 25, 2013 when Activision Blizzard purchased the remaining shares from then majority owner Vivendi.[9] Its CEO is Eric Hirshberg.[1]

History[edit]

Before Activision, third-party developers did not exist.[10] Software for video game consoles were published exclusively by makers of the systems for which the games were designed.[11] For example, Atari was the only publisher of games for the Atari 2600. This was particularly galling to the developers, as they received neither financial rewards nor credit for games that sold well.[12]

Atari programmers David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller, and Bob Whitehead met with Atari CEO Ray Kassar in May 1979 to demand that the company treat developers as record labels treated musicians, with royalties and their names on game boxes. Kaplan, who called the others "the best designers for the [2600] in the world", recalled that Kassar called the four men "towel designers" and that "anyone can do a cartridge." Crane, Miller, and Whitehead left Atari and founded Activision in October 1979[13] with former music industry executive Jim Levy and venture capitalist Richard Muchmore; Kaplan joined soon. David Crane has said the name "Activision" was based on Jim Levy's idea to combine 'active' and 'television'. The original name proposed for the company was VSync, Inc.[14]

Unlike Atari, the company credited and promoted game creators along with the games themselves. The steps taken for this included devoting a page to the developer in their instruction manuals[15][16][17] and challenging players to send in a high score (usually as a photograph, but letters were acceptable) in order to receive an embroidered patch.[18][19][20] These approaches helped the newly formed company attract experienced talent. In recognition of this step, Kaplan, Levy, Miller, and Whitehead received the Game Developers Choice "First Penguin" award in 2003.

The departure of the four programmers, whose titles made up more than half of Atari's cartridge sales at the time,[14] caused legal action between the two companies not settled until 1982. As the market for game consoles started to decline, Activision branched out, producing game titles for home computers and acquiring smaller publishers.

By 1983 Danny Goodman stated in Creative Computing Video & Arcade Games, "I doubt that there is an active VCS owner who doesn't have at least one Activision cartridge in his library".[21] In 1982, Activision released Pitfall! on the Atari 2600. Designed and developed by David Crane, it was a huge success. Many clones of the game were introduced, including stand-up arcade games. On June 13, 1986, Activision purchased struggling text adventure pioneer Infocom. Jim Levy was a big fan of Infocom's titles and wanted the company to remain solvent. About six months after the "InfoWedding", Bruce Davis took over as CEO of Activision. Davis was against the merger from the start and was heavy-handed in its management. Eventually in 1989, after several years of losses, Activision closed down the Infocom studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts, extending to only 11 of the 26 employees an offer to relocate to Activision's Silicon Valley headquarters. Five of them accepted this offer.[22]

In 1988, Activision began involvement in software besides video games, such as business applications. As a result, Activision changed its corporate name to Mediagenic to better represent all of its activities.[23][24]

Mediagenic consisted of four groups:

New Activision[edit]

Following a multi-million judgment on damages in a patent infringement suit, wherein infringement had been determined many years prior during the Levy era, a financially weakened Mediagenic was taken over by an investor group led by Robert Kotick. After taking over the company, the new management filed for a Chapter 11 reorganization. In the reorganization, Mediagenic merged with The Disc Company with Mediagenic being the surviving company. Mediagenic, through Activision, continued to publish games for PCs and video game consoles, but stopped making strategic acquisitions. After emerging from bankruptcy, Mediagenic officially changed its corporate name back to Activision in December 1992 and became a Delaware Corporation, as it was previously a California Corporation. At that point, Activision moved its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Santa Monica in Southern California and from then on concentrated on video gaming.

In 1991, Activision packaged 50 of Infocom's past games into a CD-ROM collection called The Lost Treasures of Infocom, without the feelies Infocom was famous for. The success of this compilation led to the 1992 release of 11 more Infocom titles in The Lost Treasures of Infocom II.

Activision published the first-person perspective MechWarrior in 1989, based on FASA's pen-and-pencil game BattleTech. A sequel, MechWarrior 2, was released in 1995 after two years of delays and internal struggles, prompting FASA not to renew their licensing deal with Activision. To counter, Activision released several more games bearing the MechWarrior 2 name, which did not violate their licensing agreement. These included NetMech, MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bears Legacy, and MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. The entire MechWarrior 2 game series accounted for more than US$70 million in sales.[26]

Activision procured the license to another pen-and-paper-based war game, Heavy Gear, in 1997. The video game version was well received by critics, with an 81.46% average rating on GameRankings and being considered the best game of the genre at the time by GameSpot. The Mechwarrior 2 engine was also used in other Activision games, including 1997's Interstate '76 and finally 1998's Battlezone.[26]

In June 2000, Activision Holdings was created as a holding company to manage more effectively Activision and its subsidiaries.[27] Immediately after, Activision changed its corporation name from "Activision Inc" to "Activision Publishing", while Activision Holdings took Activision's former corporate name of Activision Inc.[27]

Merger with Vivendi[edit]

In December 2007, it was announced that Activision would merge with Vivendi Games, which owned fellow games developer and publisher Blizzard, and the merger would close in July 2008. The new company was called Activision Blizzard and was headed by Activision's former CEO, Robert Kotick. Vivendi was the biggest shareholder in the new group.[28] The new company was estimated to be worth US$18.9 billion, ahead of Electronic Arts, which was valued at US$14.1 billion.[29]

Post-merger developments[edit]

Sledgehammer Games was founded on November 17, 2009 by Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey,[30] who left Electronic Arts subsidiary, Visceral Games.[31][32][33]

The Sledgehammer Games micro site went live on December 8, 2009 with information on the studio development team, location, and current job openings. Speculation on the studio's next game has been offered by industry sites, Kotaku and Gamasutra.[34] The studio's first game was originally planned to be a first-person shooter in the Call of Duty series, with rumors of MMO aspects, as revealed on their website[35] on June 19, 2010. However, after the resignation of many Infinity Ward employees, Sledgehammer Games was brought in to help with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.[36]

On February 9, 2011, Activision announced that it was ending its once profitable Guitar Hero franchise, in the process doing a layoff of approximately 500 people. At the same time it announced that it was discontinuing development of True Crime: Hong Kong, and that it was refocusing its efforts into a new online service named Call of Duty: Elite for its IP Call of Duty. At the same meeting these announcements were made, Activision reported net losses of $233 million for fourth quarter 2010.[37]

In 2011 Activision restarted its in-house development team, releasing Generator Rex: Agent of Providence in October 2011 for PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Wii, and Xbox 360.[38] The game was roundly ignored by critics, with no review scores available on Metacritic as of February 2012.[39]

In October 2017, Activision was granted a patent on the manipulation of matchmaking in online multiplayer videogames in order to encourage players to purchase microtransactions. Activision claims that the system has not yet been implemented in a game.[40][41]

Acquisitions and partnerships[edit]

Year Acquisition
1997 Raven Software made an exclusive publishing deal with Activision and was subsequently acquired by them. This partnership resulted in Hexen II, Heretic II, Soldier of Fortune, its sequel and Quake 4. That same year, Activision acquired CentreSoft Ltd., (an independent distributor in the United Kingdom) and NBG Distribution (a German distributor).
1998 Pandemic Studios was founded with an equity investment by Activision. Pandemic's first two games, Battlezone II: Combat Commander and Dark Reign 2, were both sequels to Activision games. That same year, Activision also inked deals with Marvel Entertainment, Head Game Publishing, Disney Interactive, LucasArts Entertainment and CD Contact Data.
1999 Activision acquired Neversoft, best recognized for their line of Tony Hawk skateboarding games. That same year, Activision acquired Expert Software (maker of Home Design 3D).
2000 Activision made an equity investment in Gray Matter Interactive, to develop the follow-up to id Software's Wolfenstein 3D.
2001 Activision acquired rights to Columbia Pictures' feature film Spider-Man. That same year, Activision also acquired Treyarch.
2002 Activision made an equity investment in Infinity Ward, a newly formed studio comprising 22 of the individuals who developed Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. That same year, Activision acquired Z-Axis Games (the studio behind Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX) and Luxoflux Corporation.
2003 Activision and DreamWorks SKG inked a multi-year, multi-property publishing agreement. That same year, Activision also formed a partnership with Valve and acquired both Infinity Ward (developers of the Call of Duty franchise) and software developer Shaba Games LLC.

Activision and Sega made a deal to publish the US releases of PC versions of some titles, especially Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut.

Activision, along with several other game software publishers, was investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for its accounting practices, namely the use of the "return reserve" to allegedly smooth quarterly results.

2004 The company marked its 25th anniversary, and stated that it had posted record earnings and the twelfth consecutive year of revenue growth.
2005 Activision acquired ShaderWorks, acquired game developers Vicarious Visions, Toys for Bob and Beenox.
2006 Activision secured the video game license to make games based on the world of James Bond from MGM Interactive. An exclusive agreement between the two begins in September 2007 with Activision's first game set for release in May 2008 being developed by Treyarch, Beenox and Vicarious Visions. Also in 2006, Activision acquired publisher RedOctane (the publisher of the Guitar Hero franchise).
2007 Activision acquired the control of games developer Bizarre Creations.

Activision acquired Irish multiplayer technology company Demonware.[42]

2008 Merger with Vivendi Games (who owned Blizzard and Sierra) to become Activision Blizzard.[43]
2008 Activision acquired UK games studio FreeStyleGames.[44]
2009 Activision acquired Los Angeles based developer 7 Studios.[45]
2010 Partnership with Bungie.[46]

Activision announced that Sledgehammer Games will be making Call of Duty games.

2011 Beachhead Studios began developing the ELITE website for the Call of Duty games.
2014 Activision relaunches Sierra Entertainment as an indie game publisher and to re-release old Sierra games.
2015 Activision partners with Nintendo to make Skylanders/amiibo figurines of Bowser and Donkey Kong
2016 Activision acquires $46 million USD worth of assets from Major League Gaming to develop Activision's esports activities.

Studios[edit]

Current[edit]

Defunct[edit]

Sold[edit]

Notable games published[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ With some exceptions.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Fletcher, JC (July 13, 2010). "Activision Publishing names Eric Hirshberg as new CEO". Engadget. Archived from the original on June 24, 2015. Retrieved January 1, 2017. 
  2. ^ http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/ACTI/5322946078x0x938514/5075E521-4A3F-456C-8C2B-9EEF50DD69FE/Activision_2016_AR_FINAL_Spreads.pdf
  3. ^ "About Activision Publishing". www.activision.com. Activision Publishing. Archived from the original on September 20, 2014. Retrieved August 17, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Activision Blizzard, Inc. 2013 Annual Report Form (10-K)" (XBRL). United States Securities and Exchange Commission. March 3, 2014. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. 
  5. ^ Activision – Investor Relations: Historical Timeline Archived May 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. from Activision's official website
  6. ^ "Zoom". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved February 12, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Top 25 Companies by Game Revenues". newzoo.com. Archived from the original on March 6, 2017. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  8. ^ Rosmarin, Rachel (December 2, 2007). "Vivendi To Merge With Activision". Forbes. Forbes.com LLC. Archived from the original on June 20, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Activision To Buy Back Independence In $8.2 Billion Vivendi Deal". Forbes.com. 2013-07-26. Archived from the original on January 18, 2017. Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  10. ^ "Stream of video games is endless". Milwaukee Journal. December 26, 1982. pp. Business 1. Retrieved January 10, 2015. 
  11. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Worley, Joyce; Katz, Arnie (November 1988). "Video Gaming World". Computer Gaming World. p. 54. 
  12. ^ "Classic Gaming Expo Distinguished Guest: ALAN MILLER". Classic Gaming Expo. CGE Services, Corp. 1999–2010. Archived from the original on February 8, 2012. Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  13. ^ Hubner, John; Kistner Jr., William F. (November 28, 1983). "What went wrong at Atari?". InfoWorld. Originally published in the San Jose Mercury News. p. 151. Retrieved March 5, 2012. 
  14. ^ a b "DAVID CRANE INTERVIEW (1994)". Video Game Ephemera. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  15. ^ Ice Hockey Instructions, page 4. Activision 1981
  16. ^ Pitfall! Instructions, page 4. Activision 1982
  17. ^ Chopper Command Instructions, page 4. Activision 1982
  18. ^ Ice Hockey instructions, page 3. Activision 1981
  19. ^ Pitfall! Instructions, page 3. Activision, 1982
  20. ^ Chopper Command Instructions, page 3. Activision 1982
  21. ^ Goodman, Danny (Spring 1983). "Home Video Games: Video Games Update". Creative Computing Video & Arcade Games. p. 32. 
  22. ^ "Down From the Top of Its Game: The Story of Infocom, Inc" (PDF). MIT. December 15, 2000. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 5, 2015. Retrieved February 12, 2016. 
  23. ^ Inc, InfoWorld Media Group (October 3, 1988). "InfoWorld". InfoWorld Media Group, Inc. Archived from the original on December 30, 2016. Retrieved December 30, 2016 – via Google Books. 
  24. ^ "Gamasutra - The History Of Activision". Archived from the original on December 20, 2016. Retrieved December 30, 2016. 
  25. ^ "TEN POINT O Trademark 73761861 - Trademark Alertz". Archived from the original on January 4, 2017. Retrieved December 30, 2016. 
  26. ^ a b "Mechwarrior - History". Archived from the original on January 29, 2016. Retrieved February 12, 2016. [unreliable source?]
  27. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on January 4, 2017. Retrieved 2016-11-13. 
  28. ^ "Vivendi and Activision to create Activision Blizzard – World's Largest, Most Profitable Pure-Play Video Game Publisher" (Press release). Activision, Vivendi. December 2, 2007. Archived from the original on April 9, 2008. Retrieved December 2, 2007. 
  29. ^ Szalai, Georg (July 8, 2008). "Activision-Vivendi to Shake Up Games Biz". AdWeek. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved February 12, 2016. 
  30. ^ "Michael Condrey". MobyGames. Archived from the original on March 7, 2010. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  31. ^ "News: Activision cracks EA with Sledgehammer". ComputerAndVideoGames.com. November 18, 2009. Archived from the original on November 20, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  32. ^ "Activision Publishing Hires Industry Veterans Glen A. Schofield and Michael Condrey to Lead Sledgehammer Games – Yahoo! Finance". Finance.yahoo.com. November 17, 2009. Archived from the original on November 27, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  33. ^ Chalk, Andy (November 18, 2009). "The Escapist : News : EA Vets Launch New Activision Studio". Escapistmagazine.com. Archived from the original on November 21, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  34. ^ "Sledgehammer Games Goes Online, Needs Help – Sledgehammer games". Kotaku. December 8, 2009. Archived from the original on December 12, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  35. ^ "Sledgehammer Games working on new Call of Duty". Extra Guy. June 19, 2010. Archived from the original on November 13, 2010. Retrieved June 19, 2010. 
  36. ^ "Modern Warfare 3 on track for November". Fudzilla. January 21, 2011. Archived from the original on January 27, 2012. Retrieved January 27, 2011. 
  37. ^ "Activision pulls plug on Guitar Hero, laying off 500 workers". Los Angeles Times. February 9, 2011. Archived from the original on February 13, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  38. ^ "Activision is developing again". Archived from the original on August 28, 2011. Retrieved August 1, 2011. 
  39. ^ "Generator Rex: Agent of Providence". Metacritic. Archived from the original on March 15, 2016. Retrieved February 12, 2016. 
  40. ^ Phillips, Tom (October 18, 2017). "Activision patents matchmaking system designed to encourage microtransactions". Eurogamer. Retrieved October 19, 2017. 
  41. ^ Alexandra, Heather (October 17, 2017). "Activision patents matchmaking that encourages players to buy microtransactions". Kotaku. Retrieved October 19, 2017. 
  42. ^ Fohey, Rob (March 6, 2007). "Activision confirms Demonware acquisition". GamesIndustry.biz. Archived from the original on January 1, 2016. Retrieved February 12, 2016. 
  43. ^ "Blizzard Entertainment - Press Release". July 10, 2008. Archived from the original on July 12, 2008. Retrieved February 12, 2016. 
  44. ^ Bramwell, Tom (October 28, 2008). "Activision man confirms DJ Hero". Eurogamer. Eurogamer Network. Archived from the original on February 13, 2009. Retrieved November 10, 2008. 
  45. ^ "Activision Blizzard Announces Better-Than-Expected Second quarter CY 2009 Financial Results". Activision. August 15, 2009. Archived from the original on August 26, 2009. 
  46. ^ Ashcraft, Brian. "Halo Developer Joins Forces With Activision". Kotaku. Archived from the original on May 2, 2010. 
  47. ^ "Activision lays off about 200 employees, shuts down Santa Monica studio Luxoflux". Los Angeles Times. February 11, 2010. Archived from the original on May 15, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  48. ^ McWhertor, Michael. "Activision Lays Off Shaba's Ranks, Closes Studio (Update)". Kotaku. Archived from the original on October 10, 2009. 
  49. ^ Martin, Matt (October 9, 2009). "Activision confirms Shaba Studios closure". GamesIndustry.biz. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved February 12, 2016. 
  50. ^ a b Plunkett, Luke. "Activision Shutters Guitar Hero Creators, GH: Van Halen Developers (Update)". Kotaku. Archived from the original on February 13, 2010. 
  51. ^ Activision Acquires U.K. Game Developer Bizarre Creations Archived December 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. from Activision's website
  52. ^ Fahey, Mike (May 3, 2014). "Report: Neversoft Merging With Call Of Duty Developer Infinity Ward". kotaku.com. Archived from the original on June 14, 2014. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  53. ^ Phillips, Tom (July 10, 2014). "Tony Hawk studio Neversoft bids farewell, burns eyeball effigy". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on July 13, 2014. Retrieved July 11, 2014. 

External links[edit]