So, no doubt by now most folks and readers will have heard of the $100,000 mega indie game competition upcoming from Activision.
Now, I’m sure there’s those amongst you, dear readers, who think it’s perhaps a little early to call bullshit on it given that y’know, the only thing we have to go on so far is a PDF announcement.
Well, call me Mr Cynical but I’m not convinced.
I’m not entirely convinced by Kotick’s DICE speech for many reasons, mainly because actions tend to speak louder than words and the actions from Activision as a publisher haven’t exactly been wonderful. Kotick’s reported speeches prior to this one, well, to me it takes more than “I was talking to investors so I was having a bit of a funny with them because erm, yes, I didn’t mean what I said at all. Look over there!” to convince me. I’m not convinced because of the consumer price gouging, I’m not convinced because y’know, this is the same week that it’s reported that cutbacks may hit 3-400 staff at Activision and that Activision closed a number of studios.
I’m not convinced that apologising for not buying up studios or properties is entirely something that I want to hear an apology for. I’m not convinced by a man who tries to say “I love games” but claims not to play them due to “an addictive personality”.
I’m not convinced that the whole DICE speech was anything but an exercise in spin and smiley faced PR. Matt Sakey covers this with a bit more bile than I do but y’know, I concur with the sentiments.
So why, given that for all the reasons listed above, would I be even remotely convinced that Activision were going to do something for the good of the developer with this competition? It smells far too much like grandstanding.
$100,000 is a big number. It’s the kind of money that most indie devs aren’t going to see easily. It’s something to aspire towards. Let’s be honest here, who wouldn’t want $100,000? Who couldn’t spend $100,000 and either live a bit more comfortably or find themselves with enough to punt towards making their game better? I know, certainly, that I could do with $100,000 right now if only to make sure I can eat well for a while. It’s nice, it’s big, it’s round. It’s an amount that stands out and says LOOK, I AM A LOT OF MONEY.
So, out of the $113m net income Activision reported for 2009, $100,000 is a piss in the ocean isn’t it? Suddenly, it doesn’t look quite so big and quite so generous. Especially as a one off (or potentially five off if we assume the initially reported $500,000 wasn’t some sort of delusion) payment. Is it an unwelcome one? Possibly, rules depending. Possibly not. We’ll see.
What it most definitely isn’t is a reach out to the indie community.
Do you, readers, think that Activision or Bobby Kotick really want to help the little guy see his dream project get off the ground? Do you think that in just a few days from studio closures galore, Bobby Kotick sat down and thought “hey shit, I’m doing this wrong!” ?
It’s a chance for Activision to get their mits on new IP or concepts to sell – that’s for certain. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing but think what they could have done. They could have done something that mattered, that made an actual difference.
Can you imagine what they could do with a scheme similar to Blitz1up? With the money, knowledge and resources of Activision at hand? Can you imagine how much good they could actually do with a grant scheme to fund smaller developers? Or making tools and tech accessible to the smaller developer.
The possibilities of what they could have done are endless and there’s so many, many things that could have gone some way to engender not only some trust but some respect for the smaller developer.
But they didn’t.
Instead, rather than want to assist and nurture developers they’ve opted for a grandstanding big number competition where I have no doubt that the end result is someone working to get their game published by Activision or Activision absorbing that idea into their mothership either to be developed or to never be seen again.
And as my dear old mum and many a wise person gone before me said. “If something sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true”.
$100,000 is a lovely amount of money yes, but maybe, just maybe, in this case it might be an idea to be more than a little wary of the gift horse.