In 1999 [safewow.com]buy cheap wow gold[/url] Activision's Neversoft studio released Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. The game was a breakthrough, shredding the monotony of sports games by letting players roam a virtual skateboarder's paradise, pulling tricks at their leisure. The game became Activision's first hit franchise; now in its eighth sequel, Tony Hawk has brought in $1.6 billion.
Other successes soon followed. Kotick gave startup money to a group of developers disenchanted with their contract work for Electronic Arts. That group founded the Infinity Ward studio and created Call of Duty, a savage World War II game and Kotick's second monster franchi
se. In 2006 Kotick agreed to pay $100 million for the company that owned Guitar Hero, which soon proved an even bigger smash.
Digg It!Kotick pumped money into a beefed up sequel backed by a national advertising campaign. The Guitar Hero franchise launched a new category of videogame: the kind that adults want to play at a party. Guitar Hero requires players to use a plastic guitar instead of a standard videogame controller, making it far more accessible to novices. The Guitar Hero franchise has now taken in $2 billion.
By 2006 there was only one type of game Kotick had failed to build or buy for Activision, the wildly lucrative category of "massively multiplayer" games. Online players pay a monthly subscription fee, typically around $15, to enter worlds where they build characters over months or years, interact with each and their accomplishments. By contrast, selling a console game like Call of Duty brings a single $40 shot of revenue.
In November 2006 Kotick got a call from an emissary of Jean Bernard L the new chief of Vivendi. The French entertainment conglomerate's own videogame arm had struggled to produce hits with one giant exception. A California studio that Vivendi owned made World of Warcraft, the dominant multiplayer online game. With 11 million subscribers and $1.1 billion in annual sales, Warcraft is probably the most profitable videogame ever created.
L wanted to use Warcraft to gain control of Activision, and keep Kotick on to work for him. Since a straight up merger of Activision and Vivendi's game division wouldn't give French control of the new entity, L insisted on kicking in cash $2 billion to get to a 52% ownership stake in the new company. If Kotick wanted Warcraft, he would have to surrender control of the firm he had spent over 18 years building.
Kotick agonized over whether to cede control of Activision, recalls Katzenberg: "It's his baby. He lives it, breathes it." Eli Broad, another billionaire pal of Kotick's, told him to do the deal. Still Kotick continued to fret, worried he would give away too much.
While staying independent seemed like an obvious choice, Kotick worried that Activision was beginning to face the same challenges that dogged EA during its glory days. Many of the company's hit franchises are showing their age, and the frequent sequels risk provoking gamer burnout. (This year Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, the eighth sequel in as many years, flopped with players and critics. "Creativity gives way to complacency," snapped one reviewer. )
ea, meanwhile, is taking to its new role as the industry's underdog with gusto. EA also teamed with MTV to sell Rock Band, a shameless knockoff of Guitar Hero that added drums, bass and a microphone to the world of make believe rock stars. EA says it is returning to an "auteur model" of designing games, taking bigger chances on fewer ideas.
Kotick met Mike Morhaime, the creative genius behind Warcraft, to talk over the proposed merger. Morhaime described the far reaches of the Warcraft empire. He told Kotick how the average player spends 11 hours a week playing. In China, where rampant copying has eaten away at the profits of any Western media company trying to enter the market, customers at 160,000 Internet cafes spent $150 million last year on Warcraft time by the minute, protecting the revenue from easy piracy.
Kotick's reluctance began to fade. What if he could sell Activision's other games to China the way Blizzard did, putting Guitar Hero into all those Internet cafes and charging by the minute?
The more Kotick learned about the power of the Warcraft franchise, the more enchanted he became. Activision's board officially signed off on the merger in 2007, and the deal creating Activision Blizzard closed the following July. Kotick was left with control of 2% of the combined companies' stock, s now worth $135 million.
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