Top 10 Game Publishers of All Time - #5 Activision

Coming in at #5 for top publisher is Activision.

Activision was first founded in 1979 as apparently the first third-party publisher for video game consoles. Before that, games were published by the manufacturers of the consoles themselves (e.g. Atari). In 1982, Activision released one of the classics for the Atari 2600, “Pitfall!” In the 1990s, Activision made millions from the Mechwarrior franchise although FASA, owners of the IP, decided against renewing their licensing deal after Mechwarrior 2. Activision eventually merged with Blizzard in 2007 to form Activision Blizzard. The first Activision game I played was Alter Ego which was originally released in 1986 (although I obviously played it much later). Alter Ego was one of the earliest life simulation games on PC that takes you from birth to the grave. It was apparently developed by a psychologist too.

Activision seems to be big on FPSs as two of the biggest FPS franchises, namely Quake and Call of Duty, were published by them. My first experience with Quake was the original game back in 1996. As with previous id FPSs, the engine and graphics were ahead of anything else at the time. Quake, and especially its excellent mod, Team Fortress, was the first time I did a lot of things in gaming:

  • Quake was the first game I started to use the keyboard *and* mouse to play instead of just the keyboard
  • Quake was the first game I bought a 3D graphics accelerator card for
  • Quake was the first game I created a clan for (with the very original name of “Another Quake Clan”)
  • Quake was probably the first game I circumvented the single player just to get involved with the multiplayer component.

While the first Quake wasn’t technically published by Activision (it was in fact published by GT Interactive), the rest of the series was. Quake was followed only a year later by a sci-fi take on the series, Quake II (1997). Unlike the original, this game had a more coherent plot involving humans fighting the alien Strogg. The next iteration however, Quake III: Arena veered away from providing a proper single-player campaign at all and just focused purely on multiplayer. Sure you could play with bots but it was obvious this game was meant for multiplayer and is still one of the best deathmatch games out there. It took six years before the next Quake was released and id decided to return to the sci-fi story of Quake II. Quake IV (2005) is set straight after Quake II and implemented the Doom 3 engine. Sadly the single-player campaign wasn’t as good as some of its contemporaries, and the multiplayer, while similar to Quake III, wasn’t as good.

Another big FPS franchise is, of course, the Call of Duty franchise which is most likely Activision’s biggest cash cow in recent times. I’ve only played three of the Call of Duty games but I can remember that the first one released in 2003, blew me away (no pun intended). Quality audio, graphics and gameplay was bundled with intense missions ripped straight from epic World War II shows such as Band of Brothers and Enemy at the Gates. One of the most memorable moments in the game is storming Stalingrad with nothing more than an ammunition case. Also running back at any stage would result in you being mowed down by Soviet machine guns. Like more recent Call of Duty games I’ve played, Call of Duty: World at War (2008) and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009), the single player campaigns tend to be really short, amounting to no more than 3-4 hours of gameplay which makes it hard to justify the $100 price tag. Fortunately the games come with pretty decent multiplayer, World at War especially as it has 4-player co-op and some zombie survival maps to boot!

Other games that I’ve played which were published by Activision include:

  • Mechwarrior 2 (1995) – my first foray into the world of Mechwarrior
  • Spycraft (1996) – A heavily FMV-driven game but there were a lot of fun puzzles
  • Call to Power 2 (2000) – A fun spin-off of the Civilization series
  • Doom 3 (2004) – Doom for the 21st century
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines (2004) – a really immersive vampire RPG
  • The Movies (2005) – a movie studio simulation and actual movie making software bundled into one game.

Activision will undoubtedly want more Call of Duty titles, although I’m not terribly interested unless they take a brave new direction with the franchise. Id Software was acquired by Zenimax Media (i.e. Bethesda Softworks) in 2009 so it’s unlikely that Activision will publish any future Quake games. Consequently, there’s not really much I’m looking forward to from Activision.