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Activision COO Tippl: 'Franchise Fatigue' Is An 'Excuse'
Activision COO Tippl: 'Franchise Fatigue' Is An 'Excuse'
June 17, 2010 | By Kris Graft

June 17, 2010 | By Kris Graft
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More: Console/PC



Activision Blizzard is known more for releasing annual iterations of Guitar Hero, Call of Duty, and Tony Hawk than creating new intellectual properties.

But Activision COO Thomas Tippl told Gamasutra at E3 on Thursday that so-called “franchise fatigue” isn’t much of a concern – as long there is innovation with every series installment.

“[Franchise fatigue] is something that I have not bought into,” he said. “I think it’s an excuse for lack of innovation. If you have a great franchise and you stop innovating, then yes, you will lose your fan base.”

“If you think about it, if you have a large fanbase around the property, [it gives you the opportunity] to communicate directly with them, to really understand what they love about the game and what they’d like to see in the game,” said Tippl. “You can market it much more strongly than new IP.”

Tippl said that Activision’s strategy for new IP is cautious, noting that 99 percent of all new IP fails within a year, across all kinds of consumer products, not just video games. “[Launching a new IP] is a very, very difficult thing to do, which is why we do it, but extremely selectively,” he said.

The next major franchise installment in Activision’s prize Call of Duty series is Treyarch-developed Call of Duty: Black Ops, slated for November 9. Tippl said that Activision, which recently established a separate Call of Duty business unit, sees the franchise to continue to evolve.

“There’s so much that our Call of Duty fanbase wants that we are not providing yet, that we see many, many years of innovation ahead of us,” Tippl said.

When Tippl joined Activision in 2005, he brought with him several years of executive experience with highly-successful consumer goods company Procter & Gamble, which is home for products ranging from toilet paper to potato chips to laundry detergent. He still draws from that mass market experience.

“When people come up and tell me, ‘how can you possibly make another Call of Duty,’ I always tell them that I used to work for a company that every year had to figure out how to make a white shirt whiter,” Tippl said. “And [Procter & Gamble] have been doing that for 35 years with a product like Tide.”

He continued, “You’re telling me with all the opportunities we have, and the technologies and the content ... and all the different stories, the characters that we can develop, that we can’t innovate on a franchise for 10 years? Give me a break. Then we’re just not doing our job.”

The full interview with Tippl will appear on Gamasutra in the near future.


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Comments


scott stevens
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Ha ha - I like this guy's attitude, even if I'm not sure I agree with him 100%. I have to admit that I sort of glaze over when I'm looking at the "latest Zelda game" or the newest installment in the grossly misnamed "Final Fantasy" series because I'm just sick to death of seeing those titles pop up all the time.



On the other hand - I'm looking forward to the Fallout New Vegas game. Maybe it's just that some franchises keep milking that cow for too long?

Jason Bakker
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Games aren't toilet paper or shirts. This guy is in serious need of a history lesson.



http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3958/the_history_of_tony_ha
wks_pro_.php

gus one
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You guys need to take the blinkers off. We are talking about a CoD franchise across multi platforms and multi genres FPS, RPG, RTS platform you name it. There's years and years left in the CoD franchise.



As for not knowing anything about innovation and being a business man...err yep. The old argument creatives/arty free love types vs the commercial business person. I actually am starting to find it rather patronising. People keep saying it's not innovation etc but from where I am standing the market does not want innovation. If it did then ATVI/ERTS/THQ/UBI would not be rolling out follow up after follow up from existing franchises. You call it milking a franchise I call it providing the customer with what they want. And the customer votes with their wallet.



This may come as a surprise to most people here but believe it not your average gamer does not innovation or a World filled with innovative games like Portal.

Daniel Martinez
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So the whole Infinity Ward owning the rights to CoD and MW, preventing Activision from developing the franchise further, just magically went away and the lawsuit was dropped? I must have missed that article, does anyone have a link?

Benjamin Marchand
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He's got a point about franchise perenity by bringing new things inside it.

But it's the same thing for new IP...

He said :

"Activision’s strategy for new IP is cautious, noting that 99 percent of all new IP fails within a year, across all kinds of consumer products, not just video games".



Please don't blame the novelty, blame the idea behind it. If anything fails, be it a new IP or a sequel, it's because the product was not good overall, period.



This is how I don't agree with pure businessmen, they only judge about numbers and history. They just don't have some faith in the unkown anymore, they are afraid of taking risks. But guess what, any creative will tell you that the first step to innovate is to take some risk. The risk to change a viewpoint.



I don't need further more than the overall audiovisual industry of sequels to prove my point.

After some critical saturation limit, the humanity is attracted by novelty, that's a fact. Some later, some sooner. But everybody will always be at one time. So why not investing the sooner ?

Matthieu Poujade
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He has a strong point, that he defends with pretty poor arguments, imho.



I mean, Procter and Gamble? White shirt? Srsly? Does he think this adds weight to the point? I mean I understand the logic of using your own experience, but, sir, you're talking to an audience here. I would suggest a more engaging example next time.

gus one
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@Benjamin "So why not investing the sooner ? "



ATVI are. Look at their 7 pillars of opportunity. There's 2 brand new IP franchises there 1/ Bungie and 2/ Unannounced MMO. The latter will be incurring a significant investment by ATVI each year already. Add to that to new old IP we have not seen for a while (Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3). So when people say ATVI are not being innovative or producing new IP that could not be further from the truth. Plus off the top of my head ATVI released Blur (new IP) and Prototype (new IP) and we've got Singularity (new IP) coming soon. How much new IP do people want?



What we have here is a business that makes a lot of money delivering products that the consumer is prepared to buy. Plus investment in new IP for future growth. People look at Call of Duty iterations and yell "see no new IP" well that's just not true. Given an AAA costs $20m+ to produce only a mad man, a gambler or a creative would keep producing a single title off the back of a new IP before moving onto a completely new IP. That's how you lose money as soon as one fails it's all over.



@Daniel ATVI own IW and ATVI owns the CoD franchise. Doesn't sound like the franchise has ground to halt now does it... and where was the Kings of Plagurism Respawn CoD Entertainment at E3? Hmm not there obviously clearly too busy working on..you guessed it Medal of Honor 2.

Todd Boyd
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"I always tell them that I used to work for a company that every year had to figure out how to make a white shirt whiter"...



I read that as, "We know how to trick consumers into paying money for the same crap over and over again."

Mark Harris
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He's right. One word : Mario.

Benjamin Marchand
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@Gus : All Blizzard new games are initially a Blizzard impulse, not ATVI ;)

Even though, all the newest Blizzard games are .... sequels. We don't have any info on their new MMO, so we can't judge, but they clearly stated that their primary objective was reaching more people = more subscriptions.



Concerning Prototype, I didn't recall it leaving a strong trail in gamers spirit. I didn't played it so I couldn't judge it, though, but what I saw in trailers and reviews was sort of "another" 3rd person rampage. Batman Arkham Asylum was far more successful, for instance.



Concerning Blur, I'm not seeing it making a persistent trail in critics minds either. From a personal viewpoint, I'm witnessing an attempt at renewing the race genre by mixing the old Interstate 76 with WipeOut. And honestly, what I saw in the videos is not appealing. Disney's Split/Second seems to have much more ambitions.



edit : IGN's review seems to resume exactly what I'm pointing at here :

"Blur isn't the addictive, competitive online game that people wanted it to be. Rather, Blur is a palate-cleansing game, the type of experience you pop in for a few minutes with your friends (...)"



This is it : ambitions. Their games are ok, but not revolutionary, and this quality control doesn't fit with such fortune dreaming. You just can't break in a flashbang saying "I'm aiming at being richer" when you're not publicly "aiming at being better" to start with.

Gamers money is a reward, not a resource. And by judging all those latest public claims (profit driven, comparison to shirt industry, etc), they really seem to have forgotten that.



TL;DR : I'm not against profit chasing. But before claiming their objectives to be making more money, they really should start with announcing they're making more game value. Gamers money is a reward, not a resource. We feel milked.

Bob Stevens
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"If anything fails, be it a new IP or a sequel, it's because the product was not good overall, period."



Ico wasn't good?

gus one
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Benjamin, isnt that evidence that not all IP is a success and that it's a hit to the P&L if it is not. Proving that you cannot exist as a company continually pumping out new IP. You have got to have sustainable cash flows you can generate from proven franchises. Without that you cannot invest in new IP. Some of the creatives here seem to think money grows on trees. It has to come from somewhere and I will guarantee ATVI know all about franchise fatigue. They pay a lot of people a lot of money to make sure they can keep growing. Stop and you die. My point was ATVI is not the 2 game band (Cod and WoW) everyone says they are and they they are trying to push new IP to get that break out franchise but recently some have failed. That's what happens. Some fail but ATVI has the capital firepower to take the hit (thanks to the other franchises) to try again - Bungie and unannounced MMO in the pipeline which will be brand new IP for starters. They are also returning $1bn to shareholders after $1.3bn already returned since the ATVI Blizzard merger. Which demonstrates they are making more cash than they can reasonably allocate internally to improve cash flow returns. That shows capital discipline and not throwing cash down the drain. Give a creative that blank cheque and they would blow it and still not get the game out in time or finished. If you cannot invest cash give it back to the owners of the company.. the shareholders. All I see is good coming from ATVI. Put some in your 401K.



People ATVI deliver new IP. Give it up.


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