“We think that you can’t even consider a game a franchise unless it’s durable in perpetuity.”
– Bobby Kotick discusses Activision Blizzard’s penchant for evergreen franchises in a recent interview.
A recent on-stage interview with Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick offers a look at the longtime exec’s perspective on recent shifts in the video game industry, alongside a handful of curious anecdotes from his 28-year career.
The discussion, held live at CNBC’s Evolve conference this week, steered away from any hard-hitting Activision Blizzard topics, but touches on the principles Kotick says the company applies to its businesses and franchises.
Early in the chat, Kotick calls the rise of mobile phones the largest single shift to hit the game industry throughout his career even though Activision Blizzard’s core (non-King) franchises have only recently started to capitalize on that surge.
“Up until very recently, five years ago, to play video games, you had to spend $300 for a PlayStation or an Xbox or $1,000 for a personal computer,” Kotick explains. “And when games became available on phones, the market exploded, and the audience size went from a few hundred million to billions of potential consumers.”
“So if you think about, though, where the growth is going to come from, it’s every region, every geography, getting those games onto mobile, making sure that the communities — the social connections that are happening between players are extraordinary. And those social connections are deepening engagement.”
Activision Blizzard does count all of Candy Crush developer King among its higher level studios, but the company as a whole has only started to bring franchises from its other major brands like Call of Duty and Diablo to mobile devices. That first Call of Duty mobile title launched just recently and, for reference, crossed 35 million downloads within days of its iOS and Android launch.
He notes several times throughout the conversation that expanding Activision Blizzard’s existing franchises, both through new content and new platforms, is the company’s primary principle ahead of any talk of acquisitions or creating new properties. So while those franchises may change slightly from game to game, the series themselves and the ideas behind them remain largely static.
“Unleash your inner rock star, or unleash your inner soldier, or unleash your inner wizard. So those are constructs that will last forever, and I think that they are very enduring ideals. And then we have to create new content that keeps people engaged,” says Kotick. “So we perpetuate our franchises, then we selectively introduce new ones. And then if there are categories of business that we don’t think we have the skills to be able to create a game around, we may do an acquisition. But those are rare.”