Activision CEO Bobby Kotick’s tech career started in a dorm room at the University of Michigan. He and his college roommate created a piece of software that allowed an Apple II computer to utilize the user-friendly interface of Apple’s Lisa computer for a lot less money. “It was a mouse and an application suite — a really good idea and a really bad product,” says Kotick. “We had no idea what we were doing, and it was hard to do.”
According to Kotick, his college roommate “was the techie, I was the entrepreneur, and we had grad students work on it. They did a pretty good job.” Since then, he’s taken that piece of dorm room software and transformed it into the global video game powerhouse Activision Blizzard, headquartered in Southern California.
In 2021, Activision Blizzard’s annual revenue was $8.8 billion. “For a long time, we didn’t always have that luxury and we had to be opportunistic to make payroll,” says Bobby Kotick. “That didn’t mean you would necessarily agree to compromise the quality of the game up front, but you’d get to a point where you just didn’t have any more money to invest.”
That’s not the case in 2022. “Now we’re in this great position where, you know, we don’t have to make anything but the best games. So it’s a great feeling to say, ‘That’s not ready for prime time; go back and make it great,’” says Kotick.
“I remember in the early ’90s we had this business plan that was a road to a billion,” Kotick recalls. “I don’t remember the exact inspiration of that as an objective, but I think it had more to do with wanting to be as big as EA [Electronic Arts], but now, I think it’s the luxury of the success we have or the balance sheet we’ve achieved that. I’m not really as concerned about the revenues. I want to make sure every one of the games is a lasting franchise that is the very best game it could be.”
Here Are Some of the Most Successful Games Activision CEO Bobby Kotick Brought to Market:
World of Warcraft — 1994’s Warcraft: Orcs & Humans was the first installment of the hugely popular World of Warcraft series. Considered one of the first real-time strategy games, it immersed players into the wickedly dangerous world of the kingdom of Azeroth, where the humans battle the Horde gang of invading orcs for survival. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans became a bestselling game that’s since spawned dozens of games, books, and even a major motion picture. It added to the $5.1 billion Activision Blizzard earned for net in-game sales in 2021.
Call of Duty — The first-person shooter game Call of Duty, developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision, thrilled gamers when released on Oct. 29, 2003. The story picks up right where that game leaves off in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, where players find themselves again fighting the fictional war waged between the United States and Russia. In the past 18 years, there have been 17 published Call of Duty games in the main series and several other titles based on the franchise, including CoD: Warzone and Ghost.
Diablo — Blizzard Entertainment, which merged with Bobby Kotick’s Activision in 2008, released the first Diablo in January 1997. It’s an action role-playing game that takes place in the fictitious mortal realm known as the Kingdom of Khanduras. The game is appealing in a dark and dangerous kind of way, as it has players guiding a solitary hero on a mission to save the world from Diablo, the Lord of Terror.
Overwatch — Blizzard Entertainment released Overwatch in 2016. The first-person multiplayer shooter game pits humans against robots in a future world overseen by the Overwatch task force. It became popular with players who enjoyed traveling the fictitious world and building teams to participate in the six-player combat versus six-player combat game.
Candy Crush Saga — The video game company hit the sweet spot when it acquired King Digital Entertainment, the makers of Candy Crush Saga, in 2015. By the end of 2018, the game’s total revenue was $3.91 billion, and according to the company’s 2020 annual report, Candy Crush continues to be its top-performing game “by a wide margin.” In addition, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick hopes to deliver a new version of the color game to players, saying, “I have long wanted to release a new part of Guitar Hero and Candy Crush, where players will play against each other.”