The Fall is always a major time for every gaming publisher and for Activision, this coming September, October and November will be enormous months. Activision is bringing four major games to the market and they include the massive expansion Destiny: The Taken King, Skylanders Superchargers, Guitar Hero Live and Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.
Destiny has proven to be as big of a hit as people were expecting it to be when it launched back in September 2014. While there were some things players would have preferred to be different, such as narrative, Destiny hit a lot of points that resonated with players. That resonation has resulted in record-breaking player numbers and Activision’s CEO Eric Hirshberg attributes that to the ownership and attachment players find in their character.
“I think the game really nailed the investment into your character. I think the core idea that attracted us to this concept when Bungie first showed it, was the idea of taking some of the best elements of MMOs and putting it into the adrenaline rush that is first-person shooters. It was totally unproven that you could do that, but the game really delivers both a great, well-tuned first-person shooter as well as a progression system and investment in your character and world that you really care about,” Hirshberg said.
Even despite some confusion among some in the gaming press about the type of business model Destiny would employ, the game’s success never failed as a result. Regardless of what you may think about the game’s plentiful DLC, Destiny has turned out to be a massive success and one that Activision seems to have bet on correctly.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare brought the famed series into the future with the introduction of exo-suits, changing the game’s essential online multiplayer forever. Sledgehammer Games delivered a multiplayer experience that has altered the trajectory of it for years to come, and Treyarch is the next team to build on what they established, in their own way.
Black Ops 3 is this year’s game and the decision to make a third iteration in the sub-franchise was one that seemed obvious to Activision. While Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games had both introduced new sub-franchises into the Call of Duty universe, Treyarch was not finished with their telling of the Black Ops universe.
“We had a lot of momentum with Black Ops and Treyarch wasn’t done telling that story. I think the Black Ops franchise is the most played sub-franchise in Call of Duty history and one of the most played games ever. Treyarch has a lot of love and a lot of energy for that sub-brand,” Hirshberg said.
Treyarch is the last Activision studio to take a crack at the Call of Duty franchise with having a three-year development cycle under their belt. Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Ghosts and Sledgehammer Games’ Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare were the first two and Black Ops 3 will be the third.
While more may get made about the three-year development period each new Call of Duty is produced under, it is still an interesting topic. Hirshberg spoke further about some of the opportunities the cycle has provided Treyarch to help create Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.
“It offers the team more time for experimentation. There is a new lighting engine and that takes time for the team to integrate that into their engine. The gunsmith is giving people more tools to personalize and customize their weapons,” Hirshberg said.
The adoption rates for the PS4 and Xbox One have been unprecedented and unexpected, to say the least. The new-generation of gaming has provided a shot in the arm to a part of the industry many analysts were proclaiming the death of just two and three years prior to their launches.
New technologies have been embraced consistently by gamers and with this coming Spring will be the long-awaited release of the Virtual Reality (VR) platform Oculus. While it is an intriguing piece of technology, Activision seems to be taking a wait-and-see approach with VR.
“I think it’s exciting to see all of this investment and innovation happening in the industry and any new platform or technology that gets people excited about playing games is good for us. We really do start our process with the idea and not with the technology or the platform,” Hirshberg said.
The Guitar Hero franchise took a five-year hiatus from the industry, as the last full installment was released back in 2010. Activision has refocused what it wants from the franchise and teamed up with developer FreeStyle Games to deliver a re-imagined Guitar Hero. Performing in front of a live audience on your TV will be the main attraction and so will be their reactions to your performance.
“What was the magic the first time around was the controller, that was the breakthrough, but what was going on behind that screen really didn’t do much to further that fantasy. It wasn’t really critical to the game, but now, what’s happening there really is the game. You’re going to win or lose that audience’s approval based on your performance, which is what rockstars get.
“I think that is why it was such a natural step forward, and then I think figuring out how to do that on real film, which is not a virtue in video games, [was a challenge]. This also makes it more fun for the people who are in the room, but aren’t playing, because they have a lot more to watch and engage with. I’ve noticed people really like watching other people play this game. Guitar Hero has always been a great party game and now we’ve made it an even better party game,” Hirshberg said.
Skylanders Superchargers will be featuring vehicles for the first-time in series’ history and not only will this change impact the game’s primary single-player, but also its new online environment. Fans who have played the Mario Kart series may be turning into Skylanders fans because the game’s online racing is the type of fun that is had in Mario Kart.
The gaming industry has done so much and it is still such a young business. There is so much for the industry to accomplish and it must stay focused on what it has always done well, create immersive, entertaining experiences gamers will enjoy. Hirshberg talked about what he would like to see gaming get better at over the long-term.
“I think we are still in our infancy as a storytelling medium. I do think there have been some recent breakthroughs and some real steps forward. I think that The Last of Us was a great story with great characters. I think Advanced Warfare was a step forward, it had a lot of those movie-like properties of caring about the narrative of the character and not just the interactive elements.
“When I look forward to the future, given everything going on with immersive technology, the games, graphics and hardware all being more sophisticated, it can become an even better storytelling medium than it currently is,” Hirshberg said.