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As Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick prepares to roll out “Call of Duty: Black Ops” at E3, he reflects on what his company, the No. 1 online games publisher, has gained from having an L.A. ZIP code.
The Hollywood Reporter: So you’re ditching your traditional approach to E3 this year. How so?
Bobby Kotick: I said, ‘Let’s not do a booth anymore. Let’s do our version of an upfront presentation and do it big.’ I can’t tell you anything else except that it will happen on June 14 at Staples.
THR: What about the booth experience was lacking?
Kotick: There’s not as much hands-on on experience as you would expect. You also don’t really absorb the magnitude of the releases. And it’s really noisy. I was just finding that we make entertainment for a living and felt the experience of E3 should be much more …
Kotick: (Laughs.) Yes, really truly entertaining.
THR: Does the game business still see itself as a separate entity from the “entertainment” industry?
Kotick: I can’t speak for others, but I think had we not been in Los Angeles, calling ourselves an “entertainment company,” which we do, wouldn’t have been as obvious. I’ve always called our customers ‘audiences,’ not ‘gamers.’ I think what we deliver now is mass-market entertainment.
THR: But are games truly mass-market yet?
Kotick: Well, the demographics on “Guitar Hero” are pretty mainstream.
THR: Not among people who are 50 and older.
Kotick: No, but people in their 40s are playing games more than ever. They played “Pong,” they had cell phones growing up. Each generation adds another layer of complexity to their relationship with technology.
THR: And most movies aren’t made for people in their 60s either.
Kotick: Right. The only difference is the user interface of movies is a lot more accessible than the user interface of a game. But I believe we’re at a place now where the stories and the characters that you see on the screen with video games will be viewed with emotional characteristics.
THR: So the next generation of games will be emotions-driven?
Kotick: Up until now, we couldn’t do mass movement, we couldn’t do facial animation, we couldn’t do eye contact that would be the equivalent of a prerendered Pixar film, or a DreamWorks film. The next generation of games will allow the audience to connect with the characters. (The secret will be) attracting people to write and help with production design who are high-level Hollywood resources. As an L.A. company, we are uniquely positioned to tap into those resources.
THR: Most game developers are located outside of L.A. Do you think a partnership with Hollywood is crucial for a company to survive for the long-term?
Kotick: I think companies that know how to work with Hollywood resources and craft great stories and compelling characters are going to be able to differentiate their products meaningfully.
THR: Why haven’t more A-list actors told their agents, “Get my voice in the next ‘Call of Duty’ “?
Kotick: I don’t know. I think it’s way more hip and relevant to do that than for any motion picture that’s in production today, and yet we haven’t taken the time to go out and get famous actors. Though, we’re starting to now.
THR: Why are nearly all the movies based on games so bad?
Kotick: Game creators say to the studio, “Hey you have to stay true to the video game.” Then you have a director-writer who wants to do that and be hip and cool and relevant, but it never works. We have to accept it’s a completely different medium.
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