In October 2021, American video game developer and publisher Activision will complete 42 years as one of the most successful companies in the industry. Established in 1979, Activision went on to release what are considered some of the best video game franchises in history, including multi-million-selling series like Pitfall!, Spider-Man, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
The company, however, is most known for publishing two of the best-selling franchises in the entertainment industry: Guitar Hero and Call of Duty, with the latter spawning several titles, comic book adaptations, series of action figures, a card game, and several other licensed products. What started as four programmers upset with their former employer, has today bloomed into an international enterprise and one of the largest third-party video game publishers in the world.
Activision was founded in Sunnyvale, California, by former Atari game developers, upset at how they were treated at Atari regarding royalties and creative credits, to develop their own games for Atari 2600, the most popular home video game console at that time. Helped by Jim Levy, who was able to secure about $1 million in capital, David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead formally founded Activision on October 1, 1979, with Levy serving as CEO.
In the latter half of 1979, each programmer began developing their own game for release in mid-1980, Dragster, Fishing Derby, Checkers, and Boxing. Ahead of the release, Activision was able to showcase their titles at the 1980 Consumer Electronics Show, which quickly resulted in a lot of buzz around the four titles. This led to a legal battle with Atari, who claimed the four developers had stolen trade secrets and violated non-disclosure agreements, culminating in a formal lawsuit filed by the end of 1980. The lawsuit was settled in 1982, with Activision agreeing to pay royalties to Atari, nevertheless legitimizing the third-party development model. Today, Activision is recognized as the first successful third-party developer in the industry.
The 1983 video game crash, caused in part by an excessive number of companies trying to follow their steps, jeopardized Activision’s position in the console game market, and forced the company to diversify into games for home computers. After a change in management by the end of the 1980s, Bruce Davis replaced Jim Levy as CEO, renamed the company Mediagenic, and branched out into business software applications. Under Davis, however, Mediagenic quickly fell into debt, and the company was bought by Bobby Kotick in 1991.
Kotick then moved the company to Los Angeles, reverted to the Activision name, and started building on existing assets and pursuing more publishing opportunities. After recovering from the inherited debt, Activision started acquiring several studios and intellectual properties in the 1990s and 2000s that led to the release of many of its successful titles.
After partnering with Neversoft to release Apocalypse, a third-person shooter for PlayStation, Activision had Neversoft work on a prototype for a skateboarding game, which would turn out to be the first entry in the Tony Hawk’s series. The game was a critical and commercial success, and Activision acquired Neversoft in April 2000. As of 2021, after the release of 20 titles, the series has brought in almost $2 billion.
In 2005, RedOctane and Harmonix began working on a console game based on the arcade game GuitarFreaks, with the former developing instrument controllers, and the latter developing the software. In November 2005, Guitar Hero was released for PlayStation 2. The game was an instant success, which led to Activision purchasing RedOctane in June 2006 for nearly $100 million. Since then, the Guitar Hero series has earned more than $2 billion in revenues.
Call of Duty
In 2002, Electronic Arts and 2015, Inc. released Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, a first-person shooter written by Steven Spielberg and the third entry in the Medal of Honor series. However, several developers from 2015, Inc., bothered by their contracts, left the company to form a new studio, Infinity Ward. Bobby Kotick himself provided the group with funding to develop a similar title to Medal of Honor. In January 2003, Activision acquired the studio and in October 2003, released the first Call of Duty title.
The game was a major success and proved to be a ground-breaking title in the video game industry, and the series is currently a staple in the esports market, being featured in several leagues and tournaments. With more than 20 releases over 21 platforms, the Call of Duty series was also licensed to several other mediums, including a line of action figures by Plan B Toys, a card game by Upper Deck Company, and even a slot machine game by Amaya Gaming, which can be found in many of the websites featured in this Indian casino guide.
As of 2021, the series has sold more than 400 million copies, and is verified by the Guinness World Records as the best-selling first-person shooter video game series. It is also the most successful video game franchise created in the United States, and the third best-selling franchise of all time. The next entry in the series, Call of Duty: Vanguard is expected to be released in November 2021, for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.