Activision Blizzard Studios Co-President: ‘Call Of Duty Is Bigger Than Marvel’

7 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Activision Blizzard Studios Co-President: ‘Call Of Duty Is Bigger Than Marvel’.

On the heels of its plan to acquire Candy Crush maker King Digital Studios for $5.9 billion, Activision Blizzard has gone Hollywood. Activision Blizzard on Friday announced it’s creating a new film and TV studio to develop original content based on its library of games, which includes Call of Duty, Skylanders, Diablo, Hearthstone, and StarCraft. “Activision Blizzard is home to some of the most successful entertainment franchises in history, across any medium,” the company’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, said in a statement. “With the launch of Activision Blizzard Studios, our engaged fans can now watch the games they love come to life across film and television.” First on tap will be an animated TV series dubbed Skylanders Academy based on the much-loved game.

The new Skylanders series is currently in production, and will feature the voices of Justin Long as Spyro, Ashley Tisdale as Stealth Elf, Jonathan Banks from Breaking Bad as Eruptor, and Saturday Night Live’s Norm Macdonald as Glumshanks. That’s the company’s continuing strategy to dominate gaming and the larger entertainment industry, and it communicated the full depth of that strategy at its investor day today ahead of the BlizzCon event in Anaheim, California. Activision said the eSports division will be working on “all-new ways to deliver the best-in-class fan experience across games, platforms, and geographies” but didn’t elaborate on its plans. The studio also is working on a “Call of Duty” film series, with the first installment likely ready for deployment in 2018 or 2019, according to van Dky. “Our releases will be consistent with the high adrenaline, bad-(expletive) action that fans expect from this franchise, but we’re going to deliver this intellectual property to the broadest movie-going audience,” van Dyk said. “This will be tent-pole action-adventure of the widest appeal.” The move follows Activision Blizzard partnering with Legendary Pictures for a film based on Blizzard’s “Warcraft” fantasy franchise.

One of their earliest efforts, Return to Zork (a visual retelling of the classic Zork text adventure), was a “wild success” and it gave the company the capital to start making new games. Van Dyk spent nine years at Disney where, as senior vice president of corporate strategy, he helped drive Disney’s focus on franchise intellectual property and played a significant role in the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. “The amount of time invested in our games is a different medium than a comic book,” van Dyk says. “People in this space are playing over a thousand hours a year of video games relative to the two hours they spend on a Spider-Man comic book. We are expanding our capabilities across platforms, genres, audience demographics, and geographies — but always in the service of our players.” Kotick said the focus will continue to be on providing the best games. Thomas Tippl, the chief operating officer at Activision Blizzard, said onstage that in the last decade, eight of the top ten titles come from well-known franchises every year in the core console and PC game business. And Activision has a strong collection of properties spanning 30 years that includes Diablo, world of Warcraft Guitar Hero, Hearthstone, Heroes of Warcraft, StarCraft, Overwatch, and now Candy Crush. “You either partner with someone or build your own,” McNealy says. “During this transition Activision is building up its future business lines with the mobile division and eSports division, and long-form and short-form video is the next leg of the stool as they build their digital empire.” Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData Research, says by vertically integrating, Activision will on the short-term reduce the cost of movie production and development. “Considering the strengths of its various franchises, it makes sense to expand the scope beyond interactive entertainment and also leverage traditional media as part of a larger marketing effort,” van Dreunen says. “Arguably, this will allow Activision to follow the example of Pokémon, which so far has released 18 full-length feature films.

It will diversify Activision’s product mix, provide additional revenue, and mitigate risk.” Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, believes there are plenty of opportunity for TV and movie tie-ins, as well as complementary opportunities for eSports and for King. Its priorities include deepening engagement with franchises, and build enduring and beloved franchises with large, engaged social communities with whom the company has a direct connection, Tippl said. “This is the best team we could have joined in 2015,” Zacconi said. “Our vision is to serve everyone’s gaming kingdom” across all platforms. And it is creating its own mid-core titles, or those that are hardcore in nature but played for short times, thanks to its own acquisition of Z2Live, for launch in 2016.

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