Publisher Wars: Exciting, or Immature?

Publisher Wars: Exciting, or Immature?

When kids squabble with one another, we scold them and tell them to “stop acting like children.” Truth is, adults are arguably more attracted to bickering and backstabbing than most youngsters. We sigh and look away, but then we open one eye and catch what we can.

For instance, even gamers who aren’t necessarily interested in Call of Duty or Battlefield can deny that following the often-heated banter between Activision and EA is intriguing. At E3 2011, EA CEO John Riccitiello told IndustryGamers.com that he wants to see Activision’s Call of Duty franchise “rot from the core.”

Ouch!

When IndustryGamers put Riccitiello’s words into context, though, he isn’t really hoping for Call of Duty to fall apart like a wormy apple. Rather, Riccitiello thinks that Activision’s upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is going to be “a really good game,” but also believes that something about EA’s own Battlefield 3 feels more genuine.

“I think that in a weird way [Call of Duty is] starting to feel a little to me like the Disneyland abstraction of a war game – a little bit jump the shark,” Riccitiello said. “So it feels a little bit like that to me. And I think there’s a market for that.

“I think our game is more authentic. It’s definitely going to do a lot of things better. Lighting’s better, physics is better, animations are better, particle effects are better, vehicles are better. I think there’s a lot of things to like about our product and I think it’s going to be a great battle.”

Riccitiello also admitted that consumers are ultimately the winners in a “clash of the titans in entertainment.” He used an interesting simile to illustrate his point: Drugs.

“If you’re battling your cholesterol drug versus somebody else’s cholesterol drug, there are only so many people who need cholesterol drugs. The market is getting bigger, but it’s all about cholesterol. So the market divides,” Riccitiello said. “But this is great for consumers. When two titans go up against each other, and battle each other for how you’re going to spend your entertainment time and dollars, it doesn’t get better than that. So as a headline, I think this is the best time in the game industry. I love when this happens.”

Long time followers of the game industry can remember a time when competition between rivals was even fiercer: The Western 16-bit wars between the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis. Nintendo and Sega took shots at each other through commercials, magazines, and television, and the young soldiers in the battle hurled playground insults that put today’s message board flame wars to shame.

Immature? Sure. But also rage-inducing and therefore kind of exciting. It was definitely an interesting time to be a fan of video games.

That said, we don’t really need a return to the likes of “Play it Loud” and the “SAY-GAH!” scream. Gaming’s audience is no longer composed primarily of fifteen-year-old males who lean on television commercials for assurance that they’re hip and cool. The snappy dialogue between EA and Activision is entertaining and isn’t rooted in let-downs and insults–though the rivals are by no means on friendly terms. It’s interesting, but not (too) embarrassing to watch.

Gaming is an entertaining pastime for people of all ages. The competition between game developers should respect that diversity. EA and Activision need to bite down on each others’ throats, because that’s how competing companies fight for dominance, but common decency should always take the fore in advertising and interviews. So far, EA and Activision have an okay grip on themselves: Let’s hope they don’t lose it as the holiday season draws closer.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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