Could Activision Enter The Console War?
With the console market already a very crowded place with three different consoles serving the needs of three (mostly) different demographics, what would happen if a fourth company released another console? It seems like the answer simply would be that the market isn’t big enough for four consoles and it would be destined to fail. However, what if that company was already one of the biggest companies in gaming, and that already has a firm hold on a sizable percentage of the gaming industry? What if that company was Activision Blizzard?
Around since the late 1970s, and founded by defectors from Atari, Activision currently sits atop the list of third party publishers, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger everyday. Since the completion of their merger with Vivendi earlier this year, the moniker Activision now adorns multiple franchises at the top of their genres - “Guitar Hero,” “Call of Duty,” “Tony Hawk,” and the biggest of all “World of Warcraft,” just to name a few. Take a look at your game collection, and see how many of your games either have Activision, Blizzard, or Vivendi on them, and then think back to the Atari 2600, and how many quality games over the last 29 years have been released by this one publisher.
What would happen if this time next year, as the industry was getting poised and ready for the holiday deluge, the sequels to all the games mentioned above were only available for one console - Activision’s? Their catalog might not offer the depth and diversity as the PS3’s, or the Xbox 360, but it would be the only place to get your fix for “Guitar Hero 5,” “Tony Hawk 10,” and “Starcraft 2.” They’re all quality games and they would only be found on one exclusive platform. Sure, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo would have a wealth of other games from other publishers to fall back on, but when the biggest piece of the pie is gone, is there going to be enough left for everyone to share?
In addition to their library of franchises they would, no doubt, also have the capacity to produce their own, new, franchises as well. After all, there are ten separate development studios under them, including such heavy hitters as, Infinity Ward, Neversoft, and Raven. These studios would be able to increase their capacity from their current one title per year (or every other year), to more than that, because they would only have to commit their time to developing for one platform, instead of three separate ones. It might even encourage additional creativity for studios to venture outside their comfort zones. Red Octane to develop something that isn’t a rhythm game. TreyArch could make an RPG. Infinity Ward could make a platformer.
What if this mystery console had a low price point, and could offer great graphics? What if this mystery console was appealing enough to encourage at least a limited amount of third party support? If it launched with a host of great, and established, first party titles as well as third party support, and you could actually have a viable contender. When the 3DO launched in 1994 it was able to get commitments from a host of third party developers - everyone from EA to Konami (granted that didn’t really pan out too well), if this console could pull in one EA or Ubisoft, it might be able to compete.
I fully realize that there is very little chance of this actually happening, for a whole assortment of different reasons, but it would be a huge shake-up of how the entire industry operates. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft would no longer be able to look to Activision titles to help move their consoles. It might be too late this console life cycle to happen, but, who knows what the future holds. All those analysts predicting a converging console future might need to start considering a wild card.
Some upcoming Activision Blizzard titles and ongoing franchises:
World of Warcraft
Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Call of Duty