A lack of cross-platform sequel potential is apparently the reason Activision Blizzard let go of Vivendi Games titles such as Ghostbusters, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand and Brütal Legend.
CEO Bobby Kotick spoke on the subject for the first time in the company’s earning call, following the publishing of its third quarter results yesterday.
Although no titles were referred to by name, he was asked why he had "de-emphasised" some Vivendi Games brands following the merger.
"With respect to the franchises that don’t have the potential to be exploited every year across every platform, with clear sequel potential that can meet our objectives of, over time, becoming $100 million-plus franchises, that’s a strategy that has worked very well for us," Kotick said in the Gamasutra-attended call later transcribed by Seeking Alpha.
"It’s something that we have been very disciplined about. So, while there are lots of promise for a lot of these products that we had in the portfolio, I think, generally, our strategy has been to focus -- especially given the increase in development expenditures on the products that have those attributes and characteristics that we know if we release today, we’ll be working on 10 years from now."
Ghostbusters and The Chronicles of Riddick have since reportedly been picked up by Atari, while THQ has confirmed that it will publish the new 50 Cent game. Double Fine Production’s Brütal Legend is the only game from the group of orphaned titles currently without a publisher.
Titles from Vivendi Games which Activision Blizzard did choose to retain include Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Prototype, and an unannounced title.
Added Kotick, "'Narrow and deep' has been essential to our strategy of how you expand operating margins. The difficulty in establishing new franchises or unproven franchises, as we have seen over the last 20 years -- that is one of the great challenges of the business, and I think that you have a less-than-accepting and tolerant retail environment.”
He continued: "It’s harder to attract development talent to projects that are more speculative in the long run, and so what we found is that if you have a [need] for innovation in existing franchises, that’s a recipe for margin expansion."
"You still need to have production of new original intellectual property, but you need to do it very, very selectively. And if you look at the number of new original intellectual properties successfully launched in the market each year over the last five or ten years, it’s a small, single-digit number."
The Activision CEO concluded: "We happen to have a number [of these original IPs] in development ourselves, but the focus is... at retail, and generally for the consumer... to continue to be on the big, narrow and deep, high-profile release strategy."