Gamer Limit Banner

There has always been a divide for gamers when discussing developers and publishers. On the one hand, most gamers will be more than happy to explain how their favorite developers have helped broaden their love of gaming, from the moment they first jumped into the LucasArts world of Zombies At My Neighbours, right through until Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

However, dare to mention the part that the publisher had to play in such a great title, and you are bound to be bombarded with ramblings of how they stifled all creativity, or ruined the project entirely.

Activision and Electronic Arts bear the majority of verbal rock throwing from the gaming community. But ask yourself this: where would we be without them?

Having acquired more than a dozen studios throughout North America and Europe, Activision (also Activision Blizzard) oversees some of the best development companies in the world. Infinity Ward, Neversoft, and Treyarch are just a few of the myriad developers that have been picked up by Activision over the years. From those three studios alone, we’ve been gifted with classics such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, and Spider-Man.

From a games journalist’s perspective, the news world would be a far emptier place without the Call of Duty or Guitar Hero series to keep the headlines filled.

Electronic Arts is in a similar boat to Activision. There is plenty of hate directed towards the gaming giant, sometimes with good reason, but I guarantee you have played, if not owned, at least a few EA titles in your life.

EA Headquarters

With mainstream hits ranging from The Sims to Rock Band to their annual sports releases, EA has acquired the perfect studios to turn them into a multi-billion dollar corporation. With more series under their belts than you can imagine (Need for SpeedMedal of HonorDead Space, and Battlefield, just to name a few), Electronic Arts has become one of the most successful publishers in video game history, second only to Nintendo on Game Developer’s top 20 video game publishers list.

EA Sports, the second prong in a three-label system that includes EA Games and EA Play, is indisputably the leader in video game sports titles. With four studios based across the United States and Canada, EA Sports has managed to pump out incredibly popular sports titles each and every year, from football to golf to hockey.

With so much emphasis placed upon publishing these days, it can be easy to forget where EA and Activision began. However, those who were around 30 years ago will know exactly how humble their beginnings were.

Ever heard of a little title by the name of Pitfall? If you spend your spare time reading this sort of article, then you probably have. It was a 1982 game developed and published by Activision for the Atari 2600. The title became an instant classic, and paved the way for several sequels to be made over the course of two decades. Thanks to a programmer by the name of David Crane, Activision was able to establish itself as a serious competitor in the gaming industry.

Despite their early success in the 80s, most gamers didn’t acknowledge Activision as a powerhouse until their collaboration with id Software in the late 90s. We all know id for their incredibly popular Doom series, and Quake managed to cause a similar stir amongst FPS fans.

While Activision didn’t have a hand in the original title, they were smart enough to jump on board for the ensuing sequels. Quake IIQuake III, and Quake IV were all published by Activision, and the two companies have continued to work together recently with Doom 3 and Wolfenstein.

Activision Blizzard

EA may not be able to boast such a revered history as Activision, but they also developed several memorable games. Their first foray into development came five years after foundation, and while Skate or Die! more or less passed everyone by, it was a harbinger of great things to come.

A few years and plenty of practice later, EA unleashed two of the most popular series upon the gaming world. FIFA International Soccer was the first indicator that EA would soon come to monopolize the sporting genre, while The Need for Speed completely revolutionized the way racing games were played.

In these difficult economic times, it’s easy to castigate the big companies for laying off workers. By no means am I trying to trivialize the matter; Activision has seen four of their studios become defunct since 2008, while EA shut down Pandemic Studios just this month. However, this is business.

Starbucks understands how to succeed in the cutthroat world of coffeehouses, while EA and Activision know what it takes to make money from video games. At the end of the day, they are as powerful as they are because they understand exactly how to succeed.

And if they continue to publish games like FIFA 10 and Modern Warfare 2, I certainly won’t be complaining.

  1. avatar Sam "verygoodyear"

    Great article, some good points.

  2. I have embraced EA as they move toward making different games. They still use their cash cows, but instead of making new ones, they are starting to take risks. They took a hit in the market at the end of the fiscal year because of it.

    However, I can’t get behind publishers like Activision because they have openly spoken out against taking said risks. Honestly, I don’t think Activision knows shit about video games. What they do know, is how to manage companies. If gaming wants to make it’s move into the same realm as film and music, Activision needs to create games that don’t have a number at the end of it.

  3. avatar name

    EA have turned themselves around but there still cocky up themselves bastards.
    im sorry EA but your going to have to do a little more than release good games for 1 year straight to win me back.
    BFBC dead space and mirrors edge are a good start, but its going to take a hell of allot more for you to win those type of bragging rights.

  4. avatar eman

    Sorry, but that last line ruined it for me. If they continue to publish games like MW2, they can go to hell.

    • avatar Felipe

      Webmaster, I am the admin at . We profile SEO Plugins for WordPress blogs for on-site and off-site SEO. I’d like to intvie you to check out our recent profile for a pretty amazing plugin which can double or triple traffic for a Worpdress blog and we just posted a video showing the plugin in action. You can delete this comment, I didn’t want to comment on your blog, just wanted to drop you a personal message. Thanks, Rich

  5. We need to remember that EA and Activision take huge risks when they decide to throw huge amounts of funding at games, especially new game IPs. If you can wrap your mind around the business sense of it, it should be no shock that so many sequels are released. Launching a new game IP is about as dangerous as a small business owner who decides to open a new bar or restaurant. There’s just a lot of risk involved, and over 50% of the time the risk does no pan out.

    I’ve come to the point where I just deal with Activision and EA. As much as the gamer in me would like to hate them, the business man in me completely understands their logic. The VG industry is a business now, not some past time hobby.

  6. avatar D-Pad

    This article completely glosses over the problem of not only video games, but media in general: consolidation. The fact is that having fewer publishers has resulted in less choice for consumers, less innovation in gaming, and greater barriers to access for game developers.

    More specifically, we can look at sports games. Now we only have one football game (Madden) and one baseball game (2K) that are officially licensed and published on multiple platforms. And if we take a hard look, both have remained stagnant. Gamers have instead lowered their expectations and accepted incremental improvements year after year. This goes for other genres. We have gotten marginal improvements over the previous console generation. This is a product of consolidated publishing, which has created less competition and, therefore, less pressure on developers to really push genres and the art of game development.

    I have been gaming for 17 years and am considering retirement because nothing new is coming out. And I point my finger directly at the mega-publishers. We should remain skeptical of, rather than embrace, such industry developments. Consolidation of media sure hasn’t fostered a healthy debate of issues in the U.S., and I believe it hasn’t aided in the advancement of the video game industry.

  7. @D-Pad

    I respectfully, but wholeheartedly, disagree with you in terms of “lack of development”.

    Sport is one of the most innovative genres in the video game world today. FIFA 10 is one of the finest titles I have ever played, hands down. That’s not just sports games I’m talking about, that’s out of every game I’ve ever played. Starting with their original FIFA International Soccer, I’ve followed EA – and Konami, when they started their PES series – right the way through until now. While they may have a dud year every once in a while, the fact of the matter is that they are consistently pushing themselves to improve their product. And that shows with each annual release.

    I agree with you that perhaps Madden needs another developer to come along and really challenge it for top spot, but, honestly, no sequel to a Madden game has ever felt like a dull carbon-copy to me.

    I also don’t know where you are pulling the “greater barriers to access for game developers” spiel. We have seen some of the most incredible games released this year by no-name developers and publishers. Machinarium, A Boy and his Blob, and Torchlight, just to name a few.

    Let’s also think about the developers who have been picked up by massive publishers, but still continue to pump out solid gold titles: BioWare (Dragon Age), Naughty Dog (Uncharted 2), and Chair Entertainment with Epic Games (Shadow Complex).

    While I can understand where you are coming from, I think that claiming a small number of publishers will soon monopolize the industry and restrict developmental choices is simply nonsense. What we have seen in terms of unique games this year alone completely rubbishes that theory.

  8. avatar D-Pad

    It’s deceptive to cite a couple no-name successes without acknowledging the number of indie flops, as well as the sea of garbage titles that these large publishers have so shamelessly released. Numbers taken out of context aren’t convincing. Hits by small publishers are the exception, rather than the rule. Moreover, Boy and His Blob was released by Majesco (not so no-name).

    The fact is that both publishers gobble up independent studios to obtain the rights to their products. EA acquired Pandemic, then just shut it down, but still have the rights to their titles (see Rare and its continuing difficulties with Nintendo). They engaged in a hostile takeover of Ubisoft, acquiring 20%. And they attempted a hostile takeover of Take-Two Interactive. Wow, what great competition that would have been. 2k Sports and EA sports games being made by the same publisher.

    And the developers that are under the umbrellas of EA and Activision have as much autonomy as pseudo-independent film makers that have their films released by mega-studios. These devs still have to crawl up the monster’s butt to get their products released. The barriers of entry have made this a grim reality.

    And anyways, why would anyone be so eager to bestow praise on mega-corporations? These institutions are ruinous to the economy and need to be investigated under anti-trust laws. Don’t lose sight of the Monopolistic nature of these publishers.

  9. avatar Gordon

    Appreciate this post. Let me try it out.

    Feel free to visit my webpage … Louella Wischner

  10. avatar Dylan

    Hi there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers?

    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing many months
    of hard work due to no data backup. Do you have any solutions to stop hackers?

    Also visit my web blog: Aura Hoffarth

  11. avatar Maisie

    Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your post
    seem to be running off the screen in Internet explorer.
    I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post
    to let you know. The layout look great though!
    Hope you get the issue fixed soon. Many thanks

    my site :: Gaylene Zalusky

Leave a Reply