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Activision hopes to attract indies with new mobile platform
Activision hopes to attract indies with new mobile platform Exclusive
June 13, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi

Call of Duty publisher Activision has long stood on the sidelines when it comes to mobile game publishing, but a new partnership may see the company build a substantial network of third-party games.

On Wednesday the company announced that it has teamed up with mobile analytics company Flurry to establish a new publishing platform. Games released under the Activision Mobile Publishing brand will be provided metrics, publishing support and, the company stresses, users, thanks primarily to Flurry's user acquisition network, AppCircle.

The initiative is aimed squarely at third-party developers looking to get their games out to as many people as possible. Primary targets are those smaller, independent developers who might not have the chops or bandwidth to support marketing efforts or scaling.

"We've seen this market develop to a multibillion dollar market, and it is not just a controlled by the indies, it's simply dominated by the indies," Flurry president and CEO Simon Khalaf tells us.

"We felt that the best way to approach the market is to simply help the indies organize and do a much better job of managing an audience."

To make sure the indies are listening, Activision's platform is keeping IP in the hands of its original developers, though the company was unwilling to disclose to Gamasutra what a revenue share model might look like, with mobile head Greg Canessa telling us they'll work with devs "on a case-by-case basis."

"With those smaller developers [we can] provide marketing, funding, resources, and a platform that we're providing to connect the games together into a larger community," he says.

That community includes those already playing its existing first-party titles, which has games from popular IPs such as Call of Duty and Skylanders, among others, as the company plans to promote in-network games across its titles.

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E McNeill
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Well, I'm curious, but I don't trust anything with Activision's name on it.

This might be driving a wedge into that subtle gap between "independent" and "indie".

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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""We've seen this market develop to a multibillion dollar market, and it is not just a controlled by the indies, it's simply dominated by the indies," Flurry president and CEO Simon Khalaf tells us."

Right, so who needs you? If indies already have a market and you enter to help them advertise, you are simply trying to extract wealth without adding value. Learn how to code, the days of CEO wealth extraction are numbered.

"We felt that the best way to approach the market is to simply help the indies organize and do a much better job of managing an audience."

In other words, they want to position themselves as advertising arms dealers, profiting off distracting escalation. "It would be a shame if your game couldn't keep up with those other indie games that we're helping advertise. We can help you advertise too... for a cut". Selling the cure to their own disease. And the market doesn't expand but somehow indies find their pockets lighter. Typical middle-man wealth-extraction strategy. There is a reason independent developers aren't working at Activision already.

@Slade it'll be 30 percent, it always is. There is no true market pressure among distributors, they implicitly (probably explicitly and just haven't been caught yet like Apple+ebook pubs) collude to keep artificial price points intact.

E McNeill
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There is some value in good advertising and outreach. There are a lot of people who wouldn't normally pay any attention to one of my games, but would be interested if they did. I don't know how to get to them, and maybe somebody else does.

That said, it remains to be seen whether this will turn out to be a mutually beneficial exchange or an exploitative one. The balance of power between publishers and developers is tricky, and it's not clear what exactly they're offering.

E Zachary Knight
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There is a lot to be said for cross game advertising in that instance. It has worked quite well for developers of Flash and mobile games. All it takes is a good network of developers, or even just yourself, to get it rolling.

If you have a popular game, you could always include a splash screen for one of your other games at run time or during a loading screen.

I remember that Neverwinter Nights had an advertisement for Planescape Torment during the installation process. It was quite effective and I eventually bought a copy of it.

Benjamin Quintero
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"me too!" - fat suits

E Zachary Knight
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"Activision's platform is keeping IP in the hands of its original developers"

That is certainly a big change from Activision's previous flirtations with indie developers. They ran a contest, I think last year, in which they claimed IP ownership of all submitted entries, not just the winners. That was a horrible deal for the indie developer.

Of course this change is most likely just a recognition of current market conditions. No other distribution channel takes IP ownership of the games it sells.

Other than that, I don't have much else to say that already hasn't been said.

Benjamin Quintero
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It might also have something to do with the fact that Project Icebreaker just dragged their name through the mud. Time to make good, give back, be a Robin Hood for the indie crowd; all that good business. These kinds of things help people to forget more quickly.

Whether it's oil spills in the Gulf or employers suing their own staff for millions after wrongfully firing that staff, the internet has a funny way of forgetting misgivings before a season has passed. We remember the big picture, "Big Oil, bad..." "Activision, bad..." but people hardly remember why they were upset.

It's acts of kindness that help people think the problem is gone because the symptoms have diminished. Such is life...

Ahmad Jadallah
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In both this and the Origin article I am not seeing how can we contact those companies. Their websites contact pages only lead to game support only.

Frank Cifaldi
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There actually isn't a way to contact or submit for this program yet, we asked. It's just an announcement that it's coming, basically.

Craig Page
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LOL this is what Activision and Origin can do for your game too!! They'll send out lots of announcements and trailers, with no links or contact info. And for that service you'll pay them 40% (after the App Store has taken 30%). Leaving you with just 42% of whatever your game made.

William Johnson
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As a famous admiral once said, "IT'S A TRAP!"

I'm sure we all already know that though.

Duong Nguyen
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This is pretty inevitable, a shift of power is happening in gaming. Independent creators are gaining power through the indie market, crowd funding and digital distribution. Today they are the "indies" tomorrow they will be establish brand names like Notch or Sid Meier's, etc.. fully capable of pulling massive funding through alternate sources just through their brand power.

Traditional publishers will increasingly find themselves alienated from thee next generation of game creators, who didn't go through the more traditional path. They will try to stay relevant by offering "deals" or "partnerships" but in the end they can't really offer a compelling reason why an up and coming developer would tie themselves to a publisher.. Money? If your a talented indie you can pull in millions from the crowd funded mode, organization? Most indie teams are small they don't need layers of middle management and micro-management publishers bring.. Distribution channels? Today digital distribution channels offer world wide distribution at nominal cost. Advertising? To get even a fair return on advertising you'll have to spend millions, most indies depend upon word of mouth and most publishers will not risk millions of advertising on an unproven indie developer. Platform? Most of the major platforms are open to indies now, Sony, Xbox, iOS, Android, Web, PC, etc.. There isn't a close platform which publishers can help indies get access too..

The only advantage publishers can give indies now is money imo. My guess is they run their own kickstarter like franchise or perhaps do a matching kickstarer programs where the best projects get matching fund, for a cut of the profits of course or maybe exclusive distribution rights.

Brett Seyler
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They have a lot of the important pieces in working with Flurry (still need social plumbing and a few other things) to help games compete for the Top Grossing spots, but I think the general feeling here in the comments is "what do the deals look like?" Of course, there are a lot of variables, and I'm glad they're committing to developers keeping their IP (duh), but owning the IP if it's tied up and entangled with a publisher you don't like isn't good either. Do your homework!

Tiago Costa
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Im not trying to bash Activision here, I would give them a chance at least, but if they crush multi million studios with the blink of an eye, what could they do to indies...

And will indies give up their IP? I dont believe that Activision will work with you without you giving up your work to them, even after this "To make sure the indies are listening, Activision's platform is keeping IP in the hands of its original developers", its just not the way they play. What if they got a "Portal" on their hands? Its just not the way they work, but has they say the leopard can change its spots... or something.

Ill wait and see but the cynic in me is very wary of Activision doings.

Another thing that made me smile...
"We've seen this market develop to a multibillion dollar market, and it is not just a controlled by the indies, it's simply dominated by the indies,"

Yes... the same way that the AAA market is dominated by... AAA publishers... We don't need you here its what that indie market screams and you don't like that.
Its the indie market of course its dominated by indies...

Terry Matthes
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"the company was unwilling to disclose to Gamasutra what a revenue share model might look like"

They won't have market share or a better tool set for distribution so the commision they take is going to be the only thing that sets them apart.

This is the only thing I cared at all to find out about. You can say you love indies as much as you want, but the proof is in the pudding and this pudding tastes like money.

Bruno Xavier
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As already mentioned, if they really want indies under their arms they need a VERY reasonable API and a seriously attractive revenue share.
By the way, if the mainstream market continues to shrink all these big publishers need to have indie devs under control and they know that very well.

Tiago Costa
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The AAA only shrinks because of publisher mentality.

And why the heck do they need indies anyway? I think that publisher believe that an indie is a small pixie that blow magic dust all over the development and generates amazing games...

Just put 3 devs on R&D for a couple of months and BAM, lots of weird ideas. The problem is that it goes against publisher mentality...

I really cant see why they need indies anyway? Every studio would love to have a small department of R&D generating weird ideias.
Just look on what bethesda did after finishing Skyrim, they let the team develop anything ingame and most of it was integrated in the game viq patches and one of the ideias became the new DLC.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Tiago: Publishers don't need to own indies, they need to stop indies. Remember, an indie developer is not just a potential employee, s/he is also a competitor. In other words, a revenue stream that doesn't belong (yet) to the bloated, yet envious and never satiated publisher. It's the same reason corporations buy smaller companies then lay off their staff: the desire to monopolize. You're thinking at a level that is too honest and simple. Corporations aren't about products anymore, they are playing a large scale game with the economy to rule the world and enslave humanity through slow-boiling the working class alive.