DecryptedTech

Sunday25 September 2022

Hacked User Accounts, Fired Executives (West and Zampella), Are They a By-Product of Activision Blizzard's Corporate Personality?


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despdThere is a tendency to assign personalities to corporations due to the way they seem to, at times, to take on the life of their CEO. One of the places this is most noticeable is in the tech industry. One good example of this it Apple, under Steve Jobs rule Apple became an extension of his personality and drive. Under Tim Cook we are seeing a change in Apple with things happening that never would have under Jobs. So you can see how it is easy to view a corporation as a single collective instead of the many, many parts that go to make them up.

So what can we determine about the personality of a company like Activision? They are one of the largest gaming companies on the planet and own one of the most successful game franchises that has ever been released (Call of Duty). They also happen to be a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard and is majority owned by Vivendi SA. Activision Blizzard is having a rough time of it right now with their recently launched Diablo III. We have what appears to be two separate incidents that could very well be tied into the “corporate personality” of Activision/Blizzard.

On the one hand we have already told you about Blizzard’s heavy handed approach to the rather large number of hacked accounts. This has been in the news enough that we do not need to go into too much detail, but it is important to flesh things out. Blizzard made the decision to make Diablo III an online game only. This is due to their DRM scheme that requires you to connect to their server to verify the game is legit (even in single player mode). Since the launch of the game, thousands of users have claimed that their accounts have been hacked (even players running the single player mode). Blizzard’s response to this has been pretty much cookie cutter: It is your fault your account was compromised.

Many are beginning to feel that Blizzard does not want to admit there is anything wrong, but would rather stick to the story that it is all the end user’s fault. This means that they do not have to refund the price of the game on a large scale, face the costs and time of a rewrite/global fix of the system, and also remove liability for the loss of virtual items that users might have paid for. The fact that they have shelved the real merchandise auction house is a good indicator of this.

The second item that could stand alone is the litigation between Activision and the former heads of Infinity Ward; Jason West and Vince Zampella. According to the timeline West and Zampella were fired by Activision for insubordination. Activision claims they were going to setup a new gaming company with the help of EA Games. West and Zampella claim that this was not the case, but that Activision fired them to avoid paying the large bonuses and royalties they were due from Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. The timing of the layoff is suspicious as it happened right after Modern Warfare 2 was delivered and while West and Zampella were operating on a contract extension.

Now when you combine these two incidents we begin to see something of a personality take shape. Although even planning to go out on your own can be grounds for termination it is also pretty clear that Activision might have been planning to move on without West and Zampella as Activision asked the pair to distribute 180,000 stock grants to the top developers which according to West and Zampella’s lawyer, Harold Brown, would make it harder for the top developers to leave.

Of course West and Zampella are not blameless either. They did have conversations with EA Games, but claim that is had nothing to do with them leaving and was about them starting their own consulting company after their contract extension was up.

Still what we see is a corporate personality that seems to be greedy (big shocker there huh?) we have a company that refuses to deal with an issue that is plaguing many of their users (new and old) while they are trying everything to not payout what was earned for someone else’s work. I am not at all certain that West and Zampella deserve a percentage of the Modern Warfare franchise, but they are certainly due the bonuses that they earned after the work they put in on a game that was one of the top selling games of all time.

We are wondering when the first user will file suit against Activision Blizzard over the Diablo III fiasco (we have seen people file for less) and if that single suit will turn into something bigger. We also wonder if somehow this and other customer service issues will be worked into the case with West and Zampella in an effort to show a corporate mentality which has been propagated by the company’s leadership. Either way both incidents could have far reaching consequences regardless of their outcome.

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Last modified on Sunday, 27 May 2012 16:23

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