Saturday, February 11 2012 @ 03:06 PM UTC
by Dean Takahashi
Eric Hirshberg, chief executive of Activision Publishing, talked about the role that creative people should play in making decisions about running a video game business. Too often, he said, creative people leave it to the business experts. But creative people shouldn’t sell themselves short, as Hirshberg learned in the last 18 months running the division that includes Call of Duty franchise.
With the launch of the latest Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Activision Blizzard (the parent company) made some controversial moves. One of them was to create the Call of Duty Elite social networking service for game fans. The service offered things like networking with friends, videos, service enhancements. But the controversial idea was that Activision wanted to charge a subscription fee for the premium version of the service. When bloggers heard about that, they revolted, Hirshberg said, because they thought that Activision would charge for things that used to be free.
“It’s a douche move,” said Neils Hansen , a blogger who runs the Gunn Shop report on YouTube.
Hansen couldn’t believe that a Game company would alienate its core gamer base by charging money. So he organized a protest to boycott the Elite service, even before he fully knew what it was.
“We had a summer of criticism,” Hirshberg said, speaking at the DICE Summit game conference in Las Vegas.
But Hirshberg said he believed from his creative background as an artist and advertising executive that games are not products, they’re brands. While people buy products, Hirshberg said, they “buy into brands.” That means that brands are a cultural phenomenon built around products such as games that inspire people to buy those products over and over again. By treating Call of Duty as a brand, Hirshberg said, the company could get away from the traditions that held that a game was a product that sold for $60. After all, in 2011, Call of Duty was a top ten topic of conversation on Facebook; it was the only entertainment brand with a product you could buy on this list.