Saturday, February 18, 2017

Gaming Ads: Activision

Activision was founded in 1979 by former Atari employees David Crane, Larry Kaplan, and Alan Miller, as well as Jim Levy and Richard Muchmore. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Alan Miller is also one of the founders of Accolade. Many early game companies were founded by former Atari employees as it was one of the few places to get a start at. I believe Activision is the oldest game publisher in North America that is still in the games publishing business as I wouldn't consider today's Atari to be the same company as the original; it's changed hands so many times and at one point was a publishing brand for Infogrames before Infogrames took Atari's name. There are electronics companies and toy makers around today that were involved in video games at one time but have since left the industry. However, I should mention that although Activision the publisher has always existed, its corporate name did change once to Mediagenic and more recently to Activision Blizzard.

With more than 1,000 games published over the past 38 years it's likely anyone who plays video games has played at least one game published by Activision. It has developed and published many of its own games, with early hits including Pitfall!, River Raid, and Hacker, but also published numerous games from other developers. One of its more unique games that I played on the Commodore 64 is Alter Ego. Alter Ego is a text-based life simulation where players begin as an infant and play until they reach the end of their life. The male and female paths, although similar, were actually sold separately so you'd have to buy the game twice if you wanted to experience both sides. I always found the game intriguing as it was very different than any games I had played up to that point. I thought it might not be well known but I just found that a version of the game was released in 2009 for iOS and Android platforms.

Today Activision is best known for the Call of Duty series, publishing the first game from Infinity Ward in 2003. It also publishes Destiny and the Skylanders games, and the occasional licensed game (unfortunately they don't seem to put much effort into those). For a while it did have some other great series' like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and a few Transformers games (from High Moon Studios) but those have either stopped or gone downhill, largely due to developer changes. The publisher certainly isn't struggling, especially not with Blizzard's games being big money makers, but Activision doesn't publish a wide variety of games any longer. Of course, that's also a result of where the industry is today as compared to 20 or even just 10 years ago. With the high costs associated with AAA games it's much easier to bank on the same few franchises year after year once they've become popular enough.

Despite all of the games Activision has published, they didn't advertise nearly as much in the '90s as Acclaim or Electronic Arts did as today's album surprisingly has only 41 ads. The ad I'm posting below is interesting because it's for the Sega Master System. Activision is one of only two third-party publishers (the other is Parker Brothers) for the Master System as most every other publisher was locked into Nintendo's strict policies that didn't allow publishing games on a competitor's platform if they wanted to release games for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Flickr album: Activision



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