Tag: activision

Watchdog snarls at Activision

A key watchdog has bitten the rump of the boss of Activision claiming that his fat cat salary is taking the Michael.

Activision is doing rather well but its supreme Dalek Bobby Kotick appears to be making more cash than seems reasonable. According to Bloomberg his total cash-and-prizes compensation jumped from $8.1 million in 2011 to $64.9 million in 2012.

In terms of CEOs he is the second-highest paid CEO among publicly traded US companies and given there is a lot of competition for the top slots the idea that a games software CEO is worth that much is raising a few eyebrows. After all when the only person keeping you from winning the top slot is Larry Ellison you have to question how much you are getting paid.

Kotick is due for another $16 million if the company hits performance targets. Most of his dosh came in the form of stock awards valued at $55.9 million. His actual cash salary is still the same $8.33 million which it always was.

Nell Minow, of GMI Ratings, told Bloomberg that she did not like any element of Kotick’s pay package and has moaned about it before.

Minow said Activision isn’t being clear about how Kotick earned the money and the fact that there is little information provided by the compensation committee was a red flag.

She implied that the company’s committee was just picking numbers out of the air and not giving shareholders enough information as to how they came up with their reasoning.

Stock awards were sufficiently tied to Kotick’s performance and the whole compensation package is out of line with the rest of the video game industry. 

Top flack pinched thousands from Activision

A top Activision flack stole nearly 20 grand from the company’s Call of Duty kitty to fund an engagement party and pricey clothes, it has been found.

Kathryn Kirton’s defense said she had got ‘carried away’ and is now paying for those ‘moments of madness’, according to the Daily Mail. She got receipts stamped by Activision by bringing in a Frank PR consultant to approve dodgy deals on clothes and in one case a £1,500 party. Her co-defendent, Jamie Kaye, was found to have charged thousands for a family holiday to Florida. 

Kirton got Frank PR associate director Jamie Kaye, a co-defendant, to approve unauthorised purchases on his company card. Kirton then authorised the invoices which sent the bill to Activision. Kaye himself admitted to taking £5,000.

Kirton reportedly held a £1,500 engagement party at London’s Cafe de Paris that was also charged to activision, as well as what the Daily Mail says were three shopping sprees at Reiss.

According to PR Week, Kaye is understood to have paid back thousands of pounds to Frank PR, while Frank’s CFO described the fraud as an ‘isolated incident’.

Judge John Hillen said there was ‘no doubt’ Kirston’s ‘wickedness’ deserved a severe sentence.

However, he said that those in PR are often surrounded by luxury items and suggested the fraud was reflective of the industry.

“What is surprising is that cases like this are happening more and more often in your industry,” Hillen said. “But this is not the place to explore the PR industry”. He later blamed the world of public relations itself for corrupting Kaye and allowing him to be willingly drawn in by Kirton.

Kirton was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years, while Kaye has been given a nine month sentence, suspended for 12 months. Kaye was also ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work, which is far less than your average PR intern. 

EA Games CEO falls on his sword

EA’s DRM has finished off the somewhat chequered career of Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello.

Riccitiello’s obsession with DRM appears to have killed off the launch of the flagship SimCity game which was supposed to make a huge killing for the outfit.

Despite the realisation that the DRM was not working, Riccitiello insisted that EA stick to its guns and in the process managed to stuff up the launch completely.

It was not the first time that Riccitiello had managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. He has been in the driving seat of the company during a fairly hairy six year period and EA’s results have been suffering.

According to Mercury, he will be replaced in the interim by former CEO Larry Probst, whom EA named as its executive chairman.

In his letter to staff Riccitiello said he was “accountable” for the company missing operational targets. He warned that EA’s results are likely also to fall short of the company’s internal plan.

Riccitiello is quitting as a member of EA’s board. Probst, formerly EA’s nonexecutive chairman, will oversee daily operations of the company. Probst was EA’s CEO from 1991 to 2007, when he was replaced by Riccitiello.

His rule was not a total cock-up. When he took over, EA was in trouble for underestimating the popularity of Nintendo’s Wii console and overestimating the initial popularity of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3. He did manage to turn that situation around.

However, after archrival Activision merged with Vivendi Games, EA was no longer the world’s largest video game company and it had to compete with free and low-cost games from Facebook and on mobile devices.

Riccitiello changed strategy repeatedly to adapt, first shifting to the Wii and then back to the Xbox.

EA also embraced social gaming buy buying PlayFish and mobile game developer PopCap.

But the plans did not always work. It took Riccitiello five years to get the company into the black and the numbers started to talk against it as it posted more losses this year.

EA needed a big money spinner and the high-profile launch of a new SimCity game should have helped. Unfortunately EA loaded the game with some DRM which overloaded servers that prevented owners from authenticating and playing the game. Rather than pulling the plug on the DRM, EA said that it would be expensive and take a lot of developer time. This angered staff who apparently had not wanted the DRM either and leaked their displeasure online.

Another one of Riccitiello’s stuff ups was “Star Wars: The Old Republic” which initially looked promising. It was an attempt to create a multiplayer online game that would rival Activision-Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. But it didn’t.

Investors seemed happy at the news of Riccitiello’s exit and EA’s stock was up 47 cents to $19.18. 

Gaming tax breaks bring Activision back to the UK

Activision is setting up a studio in the UK and this one will be working on software for mobile users.

It is a return to the UK for Activision which left this green and pleasant land in January 2011. It had operated the Bizarre Creations studio of Project Gotham and Geometry Wars fame. More than 200 jobs went when Activision walked away mostly because of a problem with tax breaks ending.

Other than owning the UK outfit FreeStyleGames, Activision has not had any involvement in the UK short of lobbying for games development tax breaks earlier this year.

Now that the Treasury reversed its position and approved the policy, Activision is back. To be fair it did say tell UK civil servants that it wanted to hire British talent, it just could not afford it.

The details of Activision’s plan are sketchy.  According to Develop Online, the company has appointed Martyn Brown – a UK games veteran with access and contacts at numerous British studios – to interview, head-hunt and hire talent for the Activision studio. 

Brown is saying nothing about the studio or where it will be set up.  It is a fairly good bet it will be in the North of England. 

Electronic Arts settles with Activision Blizzard

Two of the biggest computer games publishers have buried the hatchet over a dispute involving the Respawn studio.

According to Reuters, the pair have been spitting legal tacks at each other over the career paths of two former Activision executives, Jason West and Vincent Zampella who were the brains behind the “Call of Duty” game.

Activision claimed that EA encouraged West and Zampella to revolt against their rule. It met with them even though West and Zampella were under contract to Activision and managed to get the papers to the secret submarine plans while getting hold of the prototype assault rifle.

Activision fired the pair who went on and formed their own outfit called Respawn in 2010. They then signed an exclusive publishing and distribution deal with EA and carried on writing software for their new glorious masters.

West and Zampella sued Activision over their dismissal and sought $36 million in royalty payments and damages. Activision counter-sued, demanding $400 million in actual and punitive damages from EA and Respawn.

West and Zampella have not reached a settlement with Activision and their case is to be heard on May 29 in a Los Angeles state court. 

Nvidia, Xerox, Motorola others get writ over remote access

The same day, and yet another patent action, this time involving another clutch of IT companies being sued over software patents.

A case was launched in the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division alleging that Xerox, Activision, Ademero, Cakewalk, Check Point Software, Coffeecup Software, Cvision, Document Imaging Solutions, Geo-Plus, Lenovo, Manedge Software, Motorola, Nvidia, Office Gemini, Polycom, Portable Tech Solutions, Silicon Graphics International, Synchronica and Treeno Software breached patents.

The action was brought by Betanet LLC, which alleges that the defendants breached two patents it owns – 5,103,476 and 5,222,134A secure system for activating personal computer software at remote locations.

The allegations against the defendants all follow a similar pattern. For example, Nvidia is accused of selling software using a process that provides a program file to a remote computer having a display. “Licence transaction information is entered in the registration shell portion, and that information is transmitted from the registration shell to a separate registration program provided in a registration computer.

“The registration program merges the licence transaction information with a second executive control program – representing a complete version of the program file – to generate a unique overlay file. The unique overlay file is transmitted from the registration program to the registration shell, and contains the second executive control program.” And so on. Nvidia is accused of infringing the patents by selling its Purevideo decode and muvee Reveal programs.

Other companies face similar charges over different products.

Betanet LLC wants a court and a jury to decide whether the firms have breached its patents, and if so, it wants money.

Apple, IBM, Adobe, Citrix others sued over software patent

Another day, another patent action.

This time Apple, Activision, Adobe, Autodesk, Capcom, Citrix, Corel, Dassault, Delcam, Square Enix, Electronic Arts, Frontrange Solutions, IBM, Intuit, Konami, Digital Entertainment, Maximizer Software, Nuance, Parametric Technology, Sage Software, Sega, Skype, SPSS, Teradata, THQ and Legacy Interactive are the numbers that have come up on the patent roulette wheel.

These companies are all being sued in an Illinois District Court by Software Restore Solutions LLC, which alleges that they have breached a patent it owns called Workgroup network manager for controlling the operation of workstations within the computer network. The US patent number is 5,832, 511.

All of these companies are alleged to infringe the patent by, for example in Adobe’s case, providing software apps designed to allow automated repair, resetting the software to configuration automatically comparing prior and current configurations.

This is a typical complaint against all of the defendants in this case.  Software Restore Solutions wants them all to deliver up damages for infringing the said patent.

Modern Warfare II managers sacked

The games industry is all a buzz over the strange doings at the software developers Infinity Ward.

The outfit which turned out the highly successful and acclaimed Modern Warfare 2 appears to have seen a coup taken place with its parent company taking over.

Security guards have stormed the developer and forced studio heads to clean out their desks.

Infinity Ward leads Vince Zampella and Jason West are reported to have met with Activision and have not been seen since.

Infinity Ward has had a troubled relationship lately with its owner/publisher and that might be the cause. However a SEC ruling said that Activision was wrapping up an investigation into “breaches of contract and insubordination” by senior employees at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare studio Infinity Ward. It warned that senior executives were expected to be given their marching orders  .

Infinity Ward’s main communicator Robert Bowling has been uncharacteristicly quiet on his Twitter account today. A screen shot surfaced from Infinity Ward CTO Jason West’s Facebook page at Kotaku with the status update “Jason West is drinking. Also, unemployed.”

West also updated his Linkedin profile to appears to reflect a change in employment. “President/Game Director/CCO/CTO Infinity Ward January 2001 – March 2010 (9 years 3 months)”

While Activision has shut down its owned development studios before, Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty games is making millions. It would be hard to see what the company has against its star developers.

An internal memo distributed to members of Infinity Ward says that while the “brains” of the operation, Vince Zampella and Jason West are no longer in the building.

Activision said that “Infinity Ward remains central to Call of Duty’s future and we rely on the combined talent, expertise and leadership of the team there for its success.”

Of course this could backfire. The last time Zampella and West cleaned out their desks from an outfit it was 2015 and they took most of the talent with them.

More here


Activision looks for raw talent

Activision will be keeping an eye out for fresh talent at this month’s MIDEM international music market for one unknown or up-and-comer to get a track featured in popular scratching-sim DJ Hero.

The show, runnng from the 24th to the 27th January in Cannes, shows off international bands and artists intending to be seen and claw their way to the top of the music biz. Activision will be keeping a close eye on ten finalists, much as it did last year when Attack! Attack! and The Answer were unearthed and had tracks plonked onto similar music rhythm games Guitar Hero 5 and Guitar Hero World Tour.

All sorts of music will be welcomed for the entrants, be it hip hop, dance or what have you – the single biggest factor is that it will be heavily mixable and make for good gameplay on a DJ Hero set.

The top dogs judging the finalist will be Tim Riley, VP of music affairs at Activision, joined by Brandon Young and Sergio Pimentel from the same lot. Ofei Sakyi, senior music producer at Freestyle will also be along for the ride as well as some ‘music industry professional’ bloke called TBC. Never heard of him.

Take a gander for more MIDEM stuff here