Uncomfortable days for Activision

The Santa Monica-based company that's behind the "Call of Duty" franchise would be front and center of any discussion about whether violent video games can lead to violence in real life. It's doubtful any such discussion will get very far - there's no statistical correlation between playing video games and gun-related killings, and the research is pretty thick. From the Washington Post:

It's true that Americans spend billions of dollars on video games every year and that the United States has the highest firearm murder rate in the developed world. But other countries where video games are popular have much lower firearm-related murder rates. In fact, countries where video game consumption is highest tend to be some of the safest countries in the world, likely a product of the fact that developed or rich countries, where consumers can afford expensive games, have on average much less violent crime.

Shares of Activision were down 2.5 percent in Monday's trading - a day when the Dow was up 100 points. But it's questionable how much of that drop had anything to do with the massacre in Connecticut - or any prospect, however remote, of restrictions on the purchase of these games. "Call of Duty" remains a hugely successful (if aging) series, with the latest version hitting the $1-billion sales mark in a record-setting 15 days. But the reviews of the new offering were mixed, and game reviews can influence future sales. Of course, Activision has faced critics for years, and somehow it manages to keep rolling. The NYT profiled CEO Bobby Kotick on Sunday:

Mr. Kotick isn't the most technology-driven executive. (He still prefers a BlackBerry.) And he doesn't get into the weeds of creative storytelling; he leaves that to the studios Activision has acquired. But like David Geffen, who never played a musical instrument well but signed Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and the Eagles, Mr. Kotick has a knack for identifying hit after blockbuster hit. He wakes up each day thinking about those hits -- some would say obsessing about them -- and how Activision can lavish games like Call of Duty, Diablo and World of Warcraft with ever more bells and whistles to keep customers happy and ensure that the next release is a big success, too.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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