In a recent interview with Eurogamer, and while talking on a range of topics, head of Double Fine Productions (Psychonauts, Brütal Legend) Tim Schafer let loose a spate of vitriol when the topic of Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick came up.
Calling Kotick a ‘pr*ck’ and a ‘d**k,’ Schafer went on to say that Kotick’s attitude towards games, and game developers, isn’t good for the industry, noting that the Activision boss could happily move into another industry that “makes more money. Ball bearings… Something that suits his passions more. Weapons manufacturing?”
Here are a few select Schafer quotes from the Eurogamer interview:
“His obligation is to his shareholders. Well, he doesn’t have to be as much of a d*ck about it, does he? I think there is a way he can do it without being a total pr**k. It seems like it would be possible. It’s not something he’s interested in.”
“I don’t think we’re an industry of widgets. I don’t think we can approach it like we approach bars of soap, where you’re just trying to make the cheapest bar of soap.”
“He definitely has that that kind of widget-maker attitude. I don’t think he’s great for the industry, overall. You can’t just latch onto something when it’s popular and then squeeze the life out of it and then move on to the next one. You have to at some point create something, build something.”
Why would Schafer have such a loathsome attitude towards Kotick, the most unloved man in the videogame industry? Well other than being passionate about this industry and its future, Schafer’s previous game, Brütal Legend, was at first to be published by Activision before the Vivendi Interactive/Sierra/Blizzard merger.
After the merger was complete, and Activision became Activision Blizzard, Brütal Legend was dropped from the publisher’s release schedule, almost without the knowledge of Schafer and his studio, Double Fine.
Once Double Fine secured a new publisher in EA, Activision tried to delay and stop Brütal Legend’s release with a lawsuit, claiming ownership over publishing rights for the game, which was met with a countersuit from Double Fine and EA, claiming breach of agreement by Activision.
Eventually, the legal battle was settled out of court, but the entire experience took its toll on Schafer, Double Fine and development of Brütal Legend, forcing Schafer to complete his work in double-quick time due to the how long the legal wrangling took.
Understandably, this whole process has left Schafer with a sour impression of Activision and its executives, including Bobby Kotick. Every ‘villainous’ act and comment committed by Kotick that the gaming world gets wind of would be amplified for Schafer by an order of magnitude.
“Getting mad at Activision for this kind of thing is like getting mad at an ape for throwing feces. It’s just how the beast communicates.”
There’s no love lost between Schafer and Activision, which lead to this recent round of name-calling and the personality assessment of Kotick.
In response to Schafer’s comments, Activision Blizzard’s Senior VP of Corporate Communications, Maryanne Lataif, issued the statement:
“Tim Schafer’s comment that Bobby Kotick ‘makes a big deal about not liking games’ just isn’t true. Bobby has always been passionate about games, and loves the video game industry. But as CEO of a company that makes games enjoyed by millions of people worldwide, the demands on his time now make it difficult to play games as often as he’d like to or as much as he once did.”
“As Schafer himself notes, he has never actually met Bobby Kotick,” added Lataif.
Following a recent talk he gave at the Develop Conference in Brighton, England on the topic of Double Fine and its first ten years in operation, Schafer commented on his original remarks regarding Bobby Kotick, saying:
“That was an accident. I was going to change the title of my talk to ‘how to give interviews and remember to check the microphone is off.’
“I need to keep my mouth shut,” Schafer continued. “It is shocking how you really burn bridges in the industry. You start your own company and you don’t have to work for that jerky boss any more. Not naming names.
“Then it’s like ‘Empire Strikes Back’ – you walk in the room and, ‘Holy s*** Darth Vader’s at the table.’ It’s such a small industry, you see the same people over and over again. No-one ever goes away.”
“I’m definitely not saying anything about Bobby,” added Schafer. “After that Eurogamer thing I realised I’m a little nervous about what I want to say.”
But if you take Schafer’s new comments as a retraction of his original Kotick remarks, or an attempt to apologise, you’d better think again, as Schafer tweets:
“Anyone who says I retracted my comments is lying.”
That’s our Tim Schafer!
In other Double Fine news, the studio is apparently working on no less than four new games, all at once and all signed with publishers, after it became clear that Brütal Legend 2 wouldn’t be happening:
“We got a phone call from a publisher saying ‘we’re not going to do a sequel to Brütal Legend,’” Schafer explained during his Develop Conference talk. “My fault was that I had not prepared for that, so we did not have a project ready to go.”
Instead of drawing up another big blockbuster project, Schafer and the team turned to four prototype projects that Double Fine has created as a motivational exercise (called the ‘Amnesia Fortnight’) during the development of Psychonauts:
“We picked the best four, took them on a roadshow and showed them to publishers,” said Schafer. “In a couple of months all four games got signed. So we became officially a multi-project studio. Trying to kill us made us multiply.”
Some of these games will be downloadable titles, while others will be released through retail, and thanks to a stable technology base with the engine created for Brütal Legend, Double Fine may even be able to release some of these new games this year… hopefully.