Activision studio boss: console games have a social future

14 Oct 2011

Brian Ward, senior vice president, Worldwide Studios, Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard’s senior vice president of Worldwide Studios Brian Ward says that while the console gaming world’s jury is still out on 3D, console games that address the growing market shift towards social, casual and mobile gaming will lead the field.

Ward, who was in Dublin this week to attend a high-level meeting of global games studio bosses, explained that the shape of the games world is changing and that while console gaming has to co-exist with other platforms, the console segment has a dynamic future.

“The shape of the gaming world is changing and you’re right, once it was all about console gaming. But console games market is changing. If you look at the charts today by genre, whereas four or five years ago having any title in the top 10 of any genre was doing well. And now that’s concentrated on the top two in each genre.

“Fortunately we have two or three in each genre and we’ve trimmed our slate accordingly to get rid of the ones that were not in the top tier.

“We’re focusing our new efforts on digital delivery. Call of Duty: Elite is something we’ve announced recently and that addresses the growing market shift towards social, casual and mobile gaming.”

Call of Duty: Elite is a free/subscription-based service created by Beachhead Studios for the multiplayer portion of Call of Duty Black Ops and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The service will feature lifetime statistics across multiple games as well as various social networking options. Features include monthly downloadable content, daily competitions with virtual and real life prizes and even Elite TV. Elite will also feature Facebook integration, a mobile app and a console app.

I asked Ward what platforms have the potential to change the console gaming experience in terms of the web and interactive TV merging. “At this point not a major role and the jury is still out on the 3D experience. So we’re still pretty focused on the console space in the way that I mentioned – big ticket console games as well as the social, casual and mobile space.”

Activision Blizzard employs over 1,200 people in Ireland and the company would be well-acquainted with the country’s native technology creation abilities having acquired Dylan Collins’ Demonware five years ago.

“Ireland has such a rich history here both on the creative side and the technology side and in particular the infrastructure side in terms of tools, analytics and data mining.

“There’s some famous middleware names of course, but there’s such a great ecosystem here in terms of tie-ins with industry and educational institutions. It’s a great base upon which to build and encourage greater job growth.

“I think Ireland is probably as well positioned as any jurisdiction in terms of being able to take advantage of the market shift to embrace social, casual and mobile.

“If you asked me two years ago what would attract more console investment into Ireland, for big ticket games that would have been hard to answer because there wasn’t really a console development ecosystem.

“But now with the predominance of social and casual games, the next wave and the next most popular games in those areas is likely to come from Ireland as much as anywhere else.

“I think anything that government and industry can do to foster development in this area I think is a high growth, high potential opportunity,” Ward said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years