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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.
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
|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, 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.
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.
- 7 Studios in West Los Angeles, California, Salt Lake City, Utah and Taipei, Taiwan, founded in 1999, acquired on April 6, 2009.
- Beenox in Quebec City, Canada, founded in May 2000, acquired on May 25, 2005.
- DemonWare in both Dublin, Republic of Ireland and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, founded in 2003, acquired on May 2007.
- FreeStyleGames in Leamington, England, United Kingdom, founded in 2002, acquired September 12, 2008.
- High Moon Studios in San Diego, California, founded as Sammy Entertainment in April 2001, acquired by Vivendi Games in January 2006.
- Infinity Ward in Encino, California, founded in 2002, acquired in October 2003.
- Neversoft in Los Angeles, California, founded in July 1994, acquired October 1999.
- Radical Entertainment in Vancouver, Canada, founded in 1991, acquired in 2005.
- Raven Software in Madison, Wisconsin, founded in 1990, acquired in 1997.
- Sledgehammer Games in Foster City, California, founded July 21, 2009
- Toys For Bob in Novato, California, founded in 1989, acquired May 3, 2005.
- Treyarch in Santa Monica, California, founded in 1996, acquired 2001.
- Vicarious Visions in Albany, New York, founded in 1990, acquired January 2005.
- Gray Matter Interactive in Southern California, founded in the 1990s as Xatrix Entertainment, acquired January 2002, merged into Treyarch in 2005.
- Infocom in Cambridge, Massachusetts, founded on June 22, 1979, acquired in 1986, closed in 1989.
- Luxoflux in Santa Monica, California, founded in January 1997, acquired October 2002, closed February 11, 2010.
- Shaba Games in San Francisco, California, founded in September 1997, acquired in 2002, and closed on October 8, 2009.
- RedOctane in Mountain View, California, founded November 2005, acquired in 2006, closed February 11, 2010.
- Sierra Entertainment in Los Angeles, California, founded in 1979 as On-line Systems, acquired from the merger with Vivendi Games, closed in 2008.
- Underground Development in Foster City, California, founded as Z-Axis in 1994, acquired in May 2002, closed February 11, 2010.
- Budcat Creations in Las Vegas, Nevada, founded September 2000, acquired on November 10, 2008. Closed November 2010.
- Bizarre Creations in Liverpool, England, founded as Raising Hell Productions in 1987 and changed name in 1994, acquired on September 26, 2007. Closed February 18, 2011.
- Wanako Studios in New York, New York, founded in 2005, acquired by Vivendi Games on February 20, 2007, sold to Artificial Mind and Movement on November 20, 2008.
- Swordfish Studios in Birmingham, England, founded in September 2002, acquired by Vivendi Universal Games in June 2005, sold to Codemasters on November 14, 2008.
- Massive Entertainment in Malmö, Sweden, founded in 1987, acquired by Vivendi Universal Games in 2002, sold to Ubisoft on November 10, 2008.
Notable games published
- Fishing Derby (1980)
- Skiing (1980)
- Freeway (1981)
- Ice Hockey (1981)
- Kaboom! (1981)
- Stampede (1981)
- Barnstorming (1982)
- Chopper Command (1982)
- Pitfall! (1982)
- River Raid (1982)
- Robot Tank (1983)
- H.E.R.O. (1984)
- Enduro (1982)
- Popeye 2 (1994)
- MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat (1995)
- The Quake series (with the exception of the first Quake)
- Interstate '76 (1997)
- Battlezone (1998)
- Civilization: Call to Power (1999)
- Tony Hawk series (1999-)
- Star Trek series (2000–2002)
- Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX (2001)
- The Weakest Link (2001)
- Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (2002)
- Spider-Man movie series (2002–)
- Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (2003)
- True Crime series (2003–2011)
- Call of Duty series (2003–)
- Doom 3 (2004)
- Guitar Hero series (2006–2011) (with some exceptions)
- Marvel: Ultimate Alliance series (2006 - )
- Crash: Mind over Mutant (2008)
- The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon (2008)
- Prototype (2009)
- Wolfenstein (2009)
- DJ Hero series (2009–2011)
- Blur (2010)
- Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011 (2010)
- GoldenEye 007 (2010)
- Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (2010)
- James Bond 007: Blood Stone (2010)
- Singularity (2010)
- Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (2010)
- Transformers: War for Cybertron (2010)
- NASCAR The Game: 2011 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (N/A)
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS, DS)
- Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS, PC)
- X-Men: Destiny (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
- Spider-Man: Edge of Time (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS, DS)
- Prototype 2 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
- Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse (PS3, Xbox 360)
- Skylanders: Giants (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, 3DS)