Friday, May 4, 2012

The Rise of the Gaming CEO

We’ve all heard it, the outrageous statement made that defies common sense and a firm grasp of reality. We used to just laugh, they were science nerds who had made it big, or inventors who didn’t have a good grasp of public relations; but in this new age we have a new breed of them, we call them the Gaming CEO. Bobby Kotick, Ray Muzyka, and others are now the heads of billion dollar companies; but there’s just one problem they still make statements that would be best left on the playground.

Recently the heads of the companies, who make two of the premier FPSs, or First Person Shooters, Call of Duty and Battlefield got into a screaming match. EA and Activision Blizzard are massive companies that compete on many areas of the gaming arena. Activision had a much published meltdown when it lost nearly the entirety of the studio that created its billion dollars a year Call of Duty franchise, Infinity Ward, and the creative heads left Activison and created a new studio under the EA umbrella. Activison came under fire for what was seen as a supreme lack of long term vision. It was the latest in a long line of high profile franchises that had been overproduced and fizzled into nothing. Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk, and even smaller franchises like Spyro and Crash Bandicoot had been laid to rest. Many people considered the latest debacle with Infinity Ward to be another series that would soon follow. And while the franchise appears to still be strong as ever, a lengthy court battle is still ongoing. EA had a much publicized PR nightmare of its own when horrendous working conditions at its major studios were critiqued by a spouse of one of its employees. Business tends to consider the bottom line and so in many ways much of this can be tossed off as business practices for better or worse are the usual way of doing business. However, what aren’t normal are the comments of these highly paid CEOs.

Lately the CEOs of companies have been quoted taking potshots at the competition. Whether Firefall CEOs’ comments about the future of MMO gaming as a subscription based model or it’s the head of EA taking potshots at the quality of Call of Duty. It’s Biowares’ Muzyka taking potshots at Final Fantasy XIII for lack of innovation ironically a charge that has been leveled at Bioware in recent years. Gaming CEO’s have opened the lid to what is frankly childish name calling and for what? These days, gamers are older, on average in their thirties. There are dedicated stock analysts whose primary focus is entirely the breadth of the gaming industry. Rumor and half-truths affect the stock price of gaming companies every day, since when was the stature of a company dictated by the latest zing?

Game companies have made themselves into billion dollar companies; they’ve stopped being the realms of dreams and fantasies for better or worst. CEOs love to say how they’re running businesses and telling gamers to expect their decisions to reflect that very real fact. Fine and good then, now gamers need these CEOs to act with the decorum expected of them.

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