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Activision is an American video game developer and publisher, majority owned by French conglomerate Vivendi SA. Its current CEO and president is Bobby Kotick. It was founded on October 1, 1979 and was the world's first independent developer and distributor of video games for gaming consoles. Its first products were cartridges for the Atari 2600 video console system published from July 1980 for the US market and from August 1981 for the international market (UK). Activision is now one of the largest third party video game publishers in the world and was also the top publisher for 2007 in the United States. On January 18, 2008, Activision announced they were the top US publisher in 2007, according to the NPD Group.

On December 2, 2007, it was announced that Activision would be acquired by Vivendi, with Vivendi contributing its gaming division plus cash, in exchange for a majority stake in the new group. The merger between Activision and Vivendi Games took place on July 9, 2008, with the newly formed company known as Activision Blizzard. Activision will still exist as a subsidiary owned by Activision Blizzard, and it will still develop and publish games such as Call of Duty, along with some of Vivendi's owned IPs, such as the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon series. As of June 15, 2010, Activision and Microsoft, specifically the Interactive Entertainment division, have an exclusive multiyear agreement; Don Mattrick announced this on June 14, 2010 during Microsoft's 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo conference. On February 9, 2011 Activision announced that it was cancelling the Guitar Hero franchise, and would no longer be developing or publishing future titles for the series and eventually clarified that the series was merely taking a break.

History of Activision

Before the formation of Activision, software for video game consoles were published exclusively by makers of the systems for which the games were designed. For example, Atari was the only publisher of games for the Atari 2600. This was particularly galling to the developers of the games, as they received no financial rewards for games that sold well, and did not receive credit for their games. This caused several programmers to resign from their jobs. Activision became the first third-party game publisher for game consoles.

The company was founded by former music industry executive Jim Levy, venture capitalist Richard Muchmore, and former Atari programmers David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead. Atari's company policy at the time was not to credit game creators for their individual contributions; Levy took the approach of crediting and promoting game creators along with the games themselves. The steps taken for this included devoting a page to the developer in their instruction manuals and challenging players to send in a high score (usually as a photograph, but sometimes as a letter) in order to receive an embroidered patch. These approaches helped the newly formed company attract experienced talent. Crane, Kaplan, Levy, Miller, and Whitehead received the Game Developers Choice "First Penguin" award in 2003, in recognition of this step.

The departure of the four programmers, whose titles made up more than half of Atari's cartridge sales at the time, caused legal action between the two companies that were not settled until 1982. As the market for game consoles started to decline, Activision branched out, producing game titles for home computers and acquiring smaller publishers.

In 1982, Activision released Pitfall!, a best selling title on the Atari 2600. Pitfall! was a huge success for the company and the developers. Due to this success, many clones of the game were introduced, including stand-up arcade games. This also launched the entire platform genre, which became a major part of video games through the 1980s.

On June 13, 1986, Activision purchased struggling text adventure pioneer Infocom. Jim Levy was a big fan of Infocom's titles and wanted the company to remain solvent. About six months after the "InfoWedding", Bruce Davis took over as CEO of Activision. Davis was against the merger from the start and was heavy-handed in its management. Eventually in 1989, after several years of losses, Activision closed down the Infocom studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts, extending to only 11 of the 26 employees an offer to relocate to Activision's headquarters in Silicon Valley. Five of them accepted this offer.

In 1988, Activision began involvement in other types of software besides video games, such as business applications. As a result, Activision changed its corporate name to Mediagenic to have a name that globally represented all its activities. Under the Mediagenic holding company, Activision continued to publish video games for various platforms notably the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Sega Master System, the Atari 7800, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and Amiga.

New Activision

Following a multi-million judgment on damages in a patent infringement suit wherein infringement had been determined many years prior during the Levy era, a financially weakened Mediagenic was taken over by an investor group led by Robert Kotick also known as Bobby Kotick. After taking over the company, the new management filed for a Chapter 11 reorganization. In the reorganization, the company merged Mediagenic with The Disc Company. While emerging from bankruptcy, Mediagenic continued to develop games for PCs and video game consoles, and resumed making strategic acquisitions. After emerging from bankruptcy, Mediagenic officially changed its entity name back to Activision on December 1992 and became a Delaware Corporation (it was previously a California Corporation). At that point, Activision moved its headquarters from Mountain View in the Silicon Valley to Santa Monica in Southern California. Activision chose from then on to concentrate solely on video gaming.

In 1991, Activision packaged 20 of Infocom's past games into a CD-ROM collection called The Lost Treasures of Infocom, without the feelies Infocom was famous for. The success of this compilation led to the 1992 release of 11 more Infocom titles in The Lost Treasures of Infocom II.

Activision published the first-person perspective MechWarrior in 1989, based on FASA's pen-and-pencil game BattleTech. Activision released the sequel, MechWarrior 2, in 1995 after two years of delays and internal struggles. Because of these delays, FASA decided against renewing their licensing deal with Activision. To counter, Activision released several more games bearing the MechWarrior 2 name, which did not violate their licensing agreement. These included NetMech, MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bears Legacy, and MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. The entire MechWarrior 2 game series accounted for more than $70 million in sales.

Activision procured the license to another pen-and-paper-based war-game, Heavy Gear, in 1997. It was well received by critics, with an 81.46% average rating on gamerankings.com and being considered the best game of the genre at the time by GameSpot. The Mechwarrior 2 engine was also used in other Activision games, including 1997's Interstate '76 and finally 1998's Battlezone.

Acquisitions and partnerships

?
Year Acquisition
1997 Raven Software made an exclusive publishing deal with Activision and was subsequentally acquired by them. This partnership resulted in Hexen II, Heretic II, Soldier of Fortune, its sequel and Quake 4. That same year, Activision acquired CentreSoft Ltd., (an independent distributor in the United Kingdom) and NBG Distribution (a German distributor).
1998 Pandemic Studios was founded with an equity investment by Activision. Pandemic's first two games, Battlezone II: Combat Commander and Dark Reign 2, were both sequels to Activision games. That same year, Activision also inked deals with Marvel Entertainment, Head Game Publishing, Disney Interactive, LucasArts Entertainment and CD Contact Data.
1999 Activision acquired Neversoft, best recognized for their line of Tony Hawk skateboarding games. That same year, Activision acquired Expert Software (maker of Home Design 3D).
2000 Activision made an equity investment in Gray Matter Interactive, to develop the follow-up to id Software's Wolfenstein 3D.
2001 Activision acquired rights to Columbia Pictures' feature film Spider-Man. That same year, Activision also acquired Treyarch.
2002 Activision made an equity investment in Infinity Ward, a newly formed studio comprising 22 of the individuals who developed Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. That same year, Activision acquired Z-Axis Ltd. (the studio behind Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX) and Luxoflux Corporation.
2003 Activision and DreamWorks SKG inked a multi-year, multi-property publishing agreement. That same year, Activision also formed a partnership with Valve and acquired both Infinity Ward (developers of the Call of Duty franchise) and software developer Shaba Games LLC.

Activision and Sega made a deal to publish the US releases of PC versions of some titles, especially Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut.

Activision, along with several other game software publishers, was investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for its accounting practices, namely the use of the "return reserve" to allegedly smooth quarterly results.

2004 The company marked its 27th anniversary, and stated that it had posted record earnings and the twelfth consecutive year of revenue growth.
2005 Activision acquired ShaderWorks, acquired game developers Vicarious Visions, Toys For Bob and Beenox.
2006 Activision secured the video game license to make games based on the world of James Bond from MGM Interactive. An exclusive agreement between the two begins in September 2007 with Activision's first game set for release in May 2008 being developed by Treyarch, Beenox and Vicarious Visions. Also in 2006, Activision acquired publisher RedOctane, Inc. (the publisher of the Guitar Hero franchise).
2007 Activision acquired the control of games developer Bizarre Creations.
2007 Activision acquired Irish multiplayer technology company Demonware.
2008 Merger with Vivendi (who owned Blizzard) to become Activision Blizzard.
2008 Activision acquired UK games studio FreeStyleGames.
2009 Activision acquired Los Angeles based developer 7 Studios.
2010 Partnership with Bungie.

Merger with Vivendi

In December 2007, it was announced that Activision would merge with Vivendi Games, which owns fellow games developer and publisher Blizzard, and the merger would close in July 2008. The new company is called Activision Blizzard and is headed by Activision's former CEO, Robert Kotick. Vivendi is the biggest shareholder in the new group. The new company is estimated to be worth $18.9 billion, ahead of Electronic Arts, which is valued at $14.1 billion.

Post-merger developments

Sledgehammer Games was founded on November 17, 2009 by Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey, who left Electronic Arts subsidiary, Visceral Games.

The Sledgehammer Games micro site went live on December 8, 2009 with information on the studio development team, location, and current job openings. Speculation on the studio's next game has been offered by industry sites, Kotaku and Gamasutra. The studio's first game was originally planned to be a first-person shooter in the Call of Duty series, as revealed on their website on June 19, 2010. However, after the recent resignation of many Infinity Ward employees, Sledgehammer games was brought in to help the game meet its November 2011 deadline.

On Feb. 9, 2011 Activision announced that it was shuttering its once profitable Guitar Hero franchise, in the process doing a reduction in force of appox. 500 people. At the same time it announced that it was discontinuing development of True Crime: Hong Kong, and that it was refocusing its efforts into a new online service (dubbed "BeachHead) for its IP Call of Duty. At the same meeting these announcements were made, Activision reported net losses of $233-million for fourth quarter 2010.

Studios

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Notable games published

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Upcoming games

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