Activision CEO: “The goal […] was to take all the fun out of making video games”
At a presentation at the Deutsche Bank Securities Technology Conference in San Francisco, Activision CEO Kotick had some choice quotes:
“We have a real culture of thrift. The goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks into Activision about 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games.”
If that sounds like it would create a corporate culture that isn’t all sunshine and hugs, then it’s “mission accomplished” for Kotick. The executive said that he has tried to instill into the company culture “skepticism, pessimism, and fear” of the global economic downturn, adding, “We are very good at keeping people focused on the deep depression.”
First, I don’t think he is doing anything morally wrong at all. It’s his job to make that business profitable. If the employess are working there by choice for their own self-interest, and consumers are voluntarily buying the games out of their own self-interest, and Kotick can grow the business, he is deliver great value and productivity to the world. He’s not curing cancer or ending world hunger, but it’s clearly a net positive and productive activity.
Secondly, I would bet against Activision’s success at this point. I’m skeptical of their ability to cultivate innovation and new hit games and their current hot franchises have finite life spans. Maybe they can acquire more hot franchises like Guitar Hero and excel at squeezing money out of them, but I would still bet against them. Most of the best quality and best selling games come from teams that love the work that they do, not from teams that work under constant fear and threat.
Finally, I find it absolute crazy that he said this. I know he’s speaking to a finance crowd and he probably loves his identity as an empire building tyrrant, but even as a purely self-interested profit-motivated move, management by fear typically yields low productivity. This kind of loud statement can also scare away quality recruits.