Activision Blizzard had their quarterly earnings call today – and all sorts of interesting news has come out of it. Unlike most investor updates, this one was “interesting” in the Chinese sense, as it also heralds the loss of 500 jobs and the apparent axing of at least three franchises.
Some good news, to start off with – Call of Duty: Black Ops will get its First Strike DLC on PlayStation 3 on March 3rd. PC gamers have been advised to keep an eye out “later in the quarter”.
Sticking with the franchise, a free-to-play microtransaction model of Call of Duty will be launched in China in the next year or so (not 2011). This isn’t really surprising – it’s a model that has always worked well in the region, and wouldn’t be the first free-to-play FPS to be launched over there. Nobody really predicts it will make the crossover back to the West – that’s what Call of Duty: Black Ops is for!
Beachhead is an interesting little thing, created to work on online Call of Duty content. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick explains that Beachhead is “focused solely on the development of an innovative new digital platform and social services for our Call of Duty community,” which is intriguing. Activision have always promised they will “never, ever charge” for Call of Duty multiplayer, so we’re not sure quite what this is. It’s apparently been in the works for more than a year now however, with things progressing nicely.
To Blizzard news now – BlizzCon 2011 has been announced, which happens to coincide with the company’s 20th birthday. We’re not yet sure if they will be releasing any games to celebrate their two decades in the industry, as Diablo III has not yet been confirmed for a 2011 launch.
What was confirmed is that – all things going to plan – we will see two new titles from Blizzard by the end of 2012. Apparently the devs are taking a “wait and see” approach to Diablo 3, relying on player feedback from the upcoming beta release before they decide when to publish the game.
Confused? You’re not alone. Blizzard have taken the time to explain things a little better for us:
“As always, we greatly appreciate the interest in our upcoming games. However, we want to make sure it’s clear that what was stated on the investor conference call was this: Blizzard has not announced a release date for its next global release. IF we don’t release a major title in 2011, then for planning purposes we would expect to launch 2 titles in 2012.
“This has been misreported/misinterpreted as an announced release schedule for 2011 and 2012, which it is not. While we’re pleased with the progress of Diablo III, we have not announced a release date for it or for any other upcoming Blizzard game. We’re currently contacting a number of outlets to request that they make the appropriate corrections in order to avoid any further confusion.”
And now the bad news (also known as the “non-CoD-related” news):
True Crime: Hong Kong has been cancelled. Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirschberg explains that “it just wasn’t going to be good enough”. Developers United Front, best known for their work on ModNation Racers will go back to their independent status and progress from there – with all eyes on what they come up with next.
From the United Front website:
We are sorry we did not get a chance to complete this project with Activision, but we understand why. We are both committed to doing quality games and nothing less. Maybe we will have a chance to work together in the future, but in the meantime we are setting our creative sights on a different horizon.
That’s not the big one though (but I do know it’s upset a whole lot of gamers around the world). The big news is being interpreted, misinterpreted and blown up all over the world: The Guitar Hero business unit has been axed (pardon the pun).
This doesn’t outright mean “No More Guitar Hero” games. This does mean no more dedicated business arm specialising in plastic instrument-shaped peripherals.
…and it also means no 2011 instalment from the franchise, as it takes a well-earned break.
DLC is still being developed (sorry, more misinterpretation – there will be no more DLC for Guitar Hero after February 2011), existing titles will still be supported, and we may well see some more of this in future. Actually, it’s a break from music games as a whole, as the sequel to DJ Hero has been shelved for a while, too.
The restructuring isn’t a victimless arrangement, however – around 500 people have lost their jobs with Activision, roughly 7% of the company’s global workforce. Guitar Hero developer Vicarious Visions has apparently copped a lot of these cutbacks, along with Freestyle Games, who were working on DJ Hero. No real surprises, but still, not a fun day for anyone involved – and we wish these former employees all the best.
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