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Interview: Activision studio head, Dave Stohl

Monday, 28 June 2010 10:31 GMT By Patrick Garratt

infinitywardlogo2

Activision’s development ethic is one of stability, based on large franchises capable of longevity and market leadership. The shocking news of Infinity Ward’s meltdown earlier this year, then, can only have been intensely troubling for the publisher’s EVP of studios, Dave Stohl, but the “unfortunate thing,” as he describes it, appears to be in the past for the exec. Talking to VG247 at E3 earlier this month, he looked only to a future of rebuilding the studio and reattaining former glory.

There was some little Bungie deal to chat about as well. Frapper le lien.

VG247: There’s been a very big shake-up recently with Activision studios in general. Obviously, you’ve had some very good news and some not so good news in the past six months. How do you feel about the general structure of Activision’s development at the moment?

Dave Stohl: I feel really good. I’m really excited about the partnership with Bungie. Obviously, I think that’s great, and it’s something that a lot of us worked on for a long time, and that’s exciting. I feel really good about the way people are reacting to what we’re doing with Black Ops, and just the general reception. I’m really proud of the work that Treyarch’s doing. It’s not a great position to have to follow up such a massive title. It scares me every day. But they’ve really risen to the challenge. It’s great to see the reaction to it, you know what I mean?

This title has been so driven by Treyarch from a creative standpoint. It’s been really nice to see it.

On the IW side, what I feel good about it the way we’re able to… People ask me this all the time. It is still a huge recruiting drive. I’ve been a development guy for a long time, right? Recruiting at IW is not a problem. What we’re trying to do is say that IW is a culture, it’s a way of doing things, there’s a lot of people there and there’s still a lot of passion for doing it. We’re trying to rebuild, trying to help them and support them to rebuild. So people are stepping up, new people are coming in and we’re setting the bar so high. And we’re making sure it fits with the culture of what IW actually is. So far so good.

The fallout of what happened with Vince and Jason; does it worry you beyond “the internet”? Do you think there’s a perception that Infinity Ward will never get back to its glory days, and that that perception will impact what they do next?

Dave Stohl: They being?

Infinity Ward.

Dave Stohl: Infinity Ward. Look: it was a really unfortunate thing, for sure. We are a big company, you know what I mean? Forget about a company; we’re a development organization and we have a lot of good people in it. We’ve got a lot of really, really hard-working people that are so focused on what they’re doing now. And, at the same time, we’ve got a lot of good people that are helping to support them get back to hopefully where they’ll get to, and I think that they will.

You know, to me, rebuilding IW is about culture and talent, and we have the wherewithal to help them get there. I think there’s a real desire. There’s a real desire to do it. I think they’ll get there, and we’ve got a ton of hard-working super-talented people. People say “Activision,” but it’s Neversoft and Treyarch and it’s VV in Albany and it’s Bizarre Creations; it’s people all over. There’s just a ton of talented development.

I’m not taking anything away from what Infinity Ward was or is, but all I can do it focus on supporting them and setting the bar so high that they keep what they have and what they had, and that’s a focus on excellence and a culture that works the way it does.

Is there still a focus on Call of Duty, though?

Dave Stohl: We’re not saying right now. There is definitely a strong shooter philosophy there, for sure. And I think that there’s a short- and long-term view on the whole thing. But I think we’re rebuilding a studio that can go off and build great new franchises in the future.

There seems to be something of a land-grab going on at the moment. The bigger third-party developers that were affiliated to single-platforms are going multi-platform en masse. What it’s like to be in an environment where you have these large, established developers saying, “Hey, we want to go multi-platform. Are you the right guy?”

Dave Stohl: It’s a good place for us to be, because, in the case of Bungie, you’ve got someone coming from a single-platform background, but we have spent a lot of time with this central Demonware network portal. We have a network back-end that supports Call of Duty across platforms, so they know what we’re doing, and how well we can support. When we start talking to them about what they’re doing, or how we can partner with them or how we can bring support to it, I think in this day and age everyone needs this kind of support. It’s not just platform support; it’s platform and network support, experience outside Xbox Live or whatever platform they come from.

Over the months we talked it became such a great partnership, because they are so buttoned up, and they are so passionate about their idea, and they’re so passionate about not just their development but how they reveal it to the consumer and they so get what is cool about the concept. I love that. There’s so much passion. They think about what it looks from the inside, about what it looks like from the outside; the whole thing. They really have a great, comprehensive plan for the game and the release.

The thing that was really exciting for me was the long-term aspect of it. That enables us to work together in a much closer way than you would otherwise in a normal contractual relationship. They’re incredible, but we’re there when they need it.

To go back to your question, I think that with people looking for that type of support and partnership, we’re in a great position right now, because we’ve spent so much time on a cross-platform network, on all that stuff that people need. It’s very hard to build. Not only do we have it, but we’ve shown what we can support with it, with a back-end the size of Call of Duty.

Do you think we’re seeing a change in the publishing landscape in general? You’re starting to enter into these types of contracts with bigger developers and we’ve just seen Insomniac sign with EA. We’ve seen Itakagaki-san and THQ announce the first deal in the THQ Partners project. Do you think it’s a trend?

Dave Stohl: I don’t know. I think it’s interesting that it’s all just happened. I personally don’t think it’s a trend. For me, I think the important part of our partnership with Bungie was the longevity of it. I think that, to me, makes it something beyond. It’s not a one-off deal kind of thing. It’s a partnership. For Activision that’s really important, and it was really important for me. I don’t know the nature and the specifics and the nature of the other deals, so I can only answer for us: a key piece of the partnership was that, while it’s not an acquisition, it’s a partnership to the point where we feel very comfortable actually partnering, instead of having maybe an old skool, one-off contractual relationship.

Would you consider the relationship with Bungie going forward a bit, a little more like the relationship Activision has with Blizzard, where you’re working on an integral level with all your processes?

Dave Stohl: Obviously, Blizzard is part of Activision, so there’s less contractual issues in terms of ownership and things like that. I will say that my hope and intention – and I know this is Bungie’s intention – is for us to work very closely, much more like we work with Blizzard in that sense, but obviously it’s a little bit different. Right now they’re really focused on launching Reach which is important, but that said, the integration has been great and the partnership with the people has been great.

We want to integrate them more than maybe an outside developer would usually be integrated.

How significant for Activision as the company is the Bungie deal? Obviously there are very few developers of that size in the world, but are we going to see you sign any more similar deals over the next 12 months?

Dave Stohl: I don’t know that. What I will say is that any deal that we do like that would have to be something where we have a long-term partnership. As you say, there are very few of those deals to be done, but I think those are the kind of deals we need to be focused on. That’s in addition to our own internal development. I think that the deals need to reflect that kind of structure for us.

Bungie was large enough to match your philosophy?

Dave Stohl: Yeah. Large and long-term. As we all know, the development times are longer now, the commitments are greater. Supporting the back-end requires all sorts of expense, work, blood sweat and tears. It needs to be a long-term partnership, I think, for it to have that type of structural work. And you want to see it through, too. I’m super-excited about it. Obviously, we haven’t announced timing, or anything like that: they’re focused on launching Reach. But the process is going to be cool, the launch is going to be incredible. I’m really excited.

When are we going to get any kind of information on it?

Dave Stohl: I don’t want to say anything because I don’t know exactly. Not now [laughs]. But it’s going to be cool when you hear about it. You’re going to be stoked.

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7 Comments

  1. mington

    Frapper le lien

    is that french for hit the link

    Frapper le poisson

    #1 5 years ago
  2. Crysis

    I’ve enjoyed their work with halo (& i’m more of a Sony fan) so i’ll definitely be looking forward to Bungie’s next project

    #2 5 years ago
  3. szaromir

    @Patrick Garratt – why do you say “Itagaki-san” but not “mr Jones and mr Vince”? Why no “Herr Yerli”etc.?

    #3 5 years ago
  4. Freek

    That’s just a games journalism excentricity. VG247 diden’t invent it, it’s an industrie thing.

    #4 5 years ago
  5. szaromir

    But it does make him sound like a tool.

    #5 5 years ago
  6. itwa5medicks

    If anyone from activision is reading this……

    IF YOU MAKE COD A PLAY TO PAY (SUBSCRIPTION BASED)

    Y O U W I L L F A I L ! ! !

    I won’t buy your games, everyone I know feels the same way, we feel like you would be ripping us off!

    Stop trying to weasel your way in my bank account! It is NOT yours! It NEVER will be. They day COD goes subscription is the day I sell all my activision games, then I will encourage as many people I can to STEAL activisions games.

    #6 5 years ago
  7. ekfight

    Notice how when asked about all the talent leavin IW – he merely says “but we have THIS many people, and so many people, were such a big company… yadda yadda”…

    Dont just spout off how big you are of a company in response to the KEY talent of IW dispatching the company.

    #7 5 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a new gameplay video available that shows a bit of action from the PC version. The video below was captured from Nvidia’s GDC conference live-stream. Developer CD Projekt RED was on hand to show off The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt‘s graphical prowess running on a PC. Thanks, GamesHQMedia.

  • Dying Light: Hard Mode and Ultimate Survivor Bundle out March 10

    Dying Light’s second DLC drop, the Ultimate Survivor Bundle, and the free Hard Mode, have been given a solid release date alongside a new trailer. Dying Light developer Techland has confirmed that the Ultimate Survivor Bundle, the game’s second DLC drop, will release March 10. The DLC is part of the season pass, but will […]

  • Exploration puzzler Ether One is coming to PlayStation 4

    Ether One, the first-person exploration game that puts you in the minds of other people to help change events of their past is coming to PlayStation 4 this year. Ether One is coming to PlayStation 4 this year, developer White Paper Games announced at GDC 2015. A retail version will also be available alongside the […]

  • Larian “murdered” Divinity: Dragon Commander to focus on Original Sin

    Divinity: Original Sin developer Larian talked very candidly about the business side of development and the many unfortunate events that took place for the game to come out as it did. Larian Studios founder Swen Vincke gave a post-mortem on the troubled development of Divinity: Original Sin, and how it managed to overcome all of […]

  • Firewatch probably has the most natural dialogue of any game to date

    Firewatch developer Campo Santo has revealed the first ever gameplay footage of the upcoming exploration game. Firewatch is the first game from super indie studio Campo Santo. The game is set in the Wyoming forests where the player will be exploring the environment and act as a fire lookout. The game features extensive voice-acting as […]

  • White Night launch trailer is a noir thriller trip

    White Night is here, not long after it was revealed and with a mysterious launch trailer. White Night, the black-and-white survival horror set in 1930s Boston, has revealed its launch trailer. White Night is mix of old-school horror, exploration and puzzling solving in an eerie, noir setting. The game’s main mechanic is light. any object […]

  • Free-to-play is “a significant part” of PlayStation’s digital future

    Free-to-play games on PlayStation 4 have seen enough growth that Sony is now considering the model a major part of its future digital business. Sarah Thompson, senior account executive for PlayStation’s free-to-play business said at a GDC panel that Sony has witnessed impressive growth in the free-to-play sector. “We’re really looking at this as a […]

  • Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter documentary releasing free on YouTube

    Broken Age making of documentary Double Fine Adventure will be made available to all. When Double Fine turned to crowdfunding, changing the industry forever, it promised to give an unprecedented look behind the scenes with a professional documentary of the whole development process of Broken Age. That documentary was initially restricted to Kickstarter backers, but […]

  • Gone Home console ports cancelled following Midnight City difficulties

    Gone Home won’t be made available to the console masses after all. Indie hit Gone Home was announced for console release almost exactly one year ago, and we’ve heard absolutely nothing since then. Turns out, that’s because it’s not happening: developer the Fullbright Company confirmed to Eurogamer that the ports have been cancelled. “Our publishing […]

  • Microsoft rang Mojang the day Notch joked about selling

    Minecraft developer Mojang was sold because founder Markus “Notch” Persson made a joke on Twitter. Ever wondered how Minecraft came to be a Microsoft property? It’s actually a pretty great story. Remember when Notch tweeted this? Anyone want to buy my share of Mojang so I can move on with my life? Getting hate for […]

  • Halo: The Master Chief Collection matchmaking update rolling out

    Halo: The Master Chief Collection has been updated to help fix its tragic matchmaking. Again. Now almost four months old, Halo: The Master Chief Collection was still pretty broken as of this morning, with rubbish matchmaking and plenty of other issues to go around. 343 Industries is still trying to fix it, and has today […]

  • Nvidia unveils Shield, an Android 4K Smart TV set top box

    Nvidia has named yet another product “Shield” in an attempt to render us all hopelessly confused. The heart of Nvidia’s GDC 2015 press conference was the Shield, a $200 Android set top box launching in May. Apparently the “world’s first 4K Android TV”, the Shield supports 4K content encoded with h.265. The box runs on […]

  • Star Wars Battlefront footage shown behind closed doors

    Star Wars Battlefront is being shown to retailers. Now we want EA to show it to us. Star Wars Battlefront is expected sometime this year, so it’s about time EA gave us a look at DICE’s latest. It turns out that while press and gamers have had to twiddle their thumbs, EA is showing it […]

  • Dragon Age lead creative moves onto mysterious new BioWare project

    Dragon Age creator David Gaider is leaving his baby behind. Dragon Age is a team effort, but Gaider was one of the key creatives behind the franchise, creating the setting of Thedas (which, I was recently amused to learn, is an acronym: “THE Dragon Age Setting”). He was lead writer on all three games and […]

  • Unity 5 available for free with “no fucking around”

    Unity 5 looks amazing, and you can download and faff about with it for free right now. “We’re not nickel-and-diming people. When we say it’s free, it’s free. We’re not charging a royalty, which I think is akin to looking for whales.” Unity Technologies announced the release of the fifth version of its popular, simple, […]

  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 may be the end of the series

    Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 released yesterday, and many fans theorise that it marks the end of the series. Five Nights at Freddy’s developer Scott Cawthon has released a new teaser image on his website, but rather than pointing to a new game, many fans believe the teaser signals the end of the series. The […]

  • Source 2 announced, will also be free

    Valve has formally unveiled Source Engine 2, the third major engine to go free to developers at GDC 2015. Source 2 is the successor to the engine Valve has been using since Counter-Strike: Source and Half-Life 2. Valve didn’t have much to say about the technicalities of this long-awaited release. It is apparently focused on […]

  • SteamVR: Valve’s Lighthouse tech allows you to walk around while playing

    SteamVR’s key differentiator is a piece of tech allowing headsets to connect with other devices for extra accurate, room-scale tracking. Valve has announced a new bit of technology called Lighthouse, which it is making freely available to any hardware manufacturer. Like the extra tracking LEDs on Sony’s updated Project Morpheus, Lighthouse improves the headset’s accuracy, […]

  • Steam Machines, Controller, streaming box to launch in November

    Steam Machines will finally become a reality before the end of the year. Valve’s living room PC systems will release in November, the company announced today. Well, I say Valve’s – the idea behind Steam Machines is that a number of manufacturers will offer variously priced systems. Alienware and Falcon Northwest are among the dozen […]

  • Telltale veterans form new team, announce teen thriller Oxenfree

    Oxenfree is a supernatural teen thriller from some of the team behind Telltale Games’ award-winning adventures. New indie Night School Studios unveiled Oxenfree at GDC 2015. It tells the story of a group of friends who accidentally open a “ghostly rift” at an overnight party on the coast. Night School, which is made up of […]

  • PS4 global sales now stand at over 20.2 million

    The PS4 has sold 20.2 million units worldwide. Sony announced the new PS4 sales milestone at GDC 2015 today. It’s a hell of an achievement and salt in the wounds for Microsoft, which hasn’t updated us on Xbox One sales since it shipped “almost” 10 million back in November last year, and has fallen back […]

  • PS4 VR headset Morpheus out in 2016, capable of 120 FPS – video

    Sony’s VR headset Project Morpheus has some impressive grunt. Virtual reality and Morpheus were the heart of Sony’s GDC 2015 presentation today, ahead of its newly announced first-half 2016 comemrcial launch. SCE Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida detailed the headset’s impressive capabilities, notably the fact that it can handle 120 FPS VR games. The PS4 […]

  • Papo & Yo developer making a VR game about dinosaurs

    Some days you write a headline and it makes you so happy that that you have to do a little chair dance, you know what I mean? Papo & Yo developer Minority Media, whom I would personally go to the wall for after they cut out my heart and stomped on it via the medium […]

  • Wasteland 2, Shovel Knight and more in big ole bunch of indies coming to Xbox One

    Xbox One owners are about to receive a pile of great new indie games. At GDC 2015, Microsoft revealed a list of new indie games headed to Xbox One. Some of these titles have already released on other platforms, so it looks like Microsoft has really relaxed the parity clause of ID@Xbox – or perhaps […]

  • Here’s an indie VR game made with Unreal Engine 4

    GDC 2015 is blowing up with indie games, VR and Unreal Engine 4, so here’s a video combining all three. Loading Human is a virtual reality adventure from indie developer Untold Games. It’s in the works for Mac and PC, and Sony has given an early green light for Project Morpheus, too, so expect it […]

  • GTA Online: Daily Objectives and Adversary Mode coming next week

    Heists aren’t the only thing coming to GTA Online next week: players can also expect Adversary Modes, new Daily Objectives and other Freemode activities. GTA Online’s Adversary Modes are new PvP modes which feature a range of competitive challenges and will unlock as players progress through Heists. Here’s a rundown straight from Rockstar: Come Out […]

  • Syndicate is the latest free game download on Origin

    The latest free title to be added to EA’s Origin service is 1993′s Syndicate. For a limited time, you can download the game for free and keep it, much like previous titles such as Theme Hospital. The isometric, real-time, tactical-action game was developed by Bullfrog Productions and released in June 1993. It is a favorite […]

  • Ancient Labyrinth DLC for Lords of the Fallen now available

    The Ancient Labyrinth DLC for Lords of the Fallen is now available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. It will run you $7.99 and builds upon the existing lore, characters, and storyline. Have a look at some new screenshots in the gallery below.

  • Shadowrun Online gets a name change and release date

    Shadowrun Online developer Cliffhanger Productions has announced the game’s name has been changed to Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown and a release date for April has been set. The new title was formed via the developer and its Kickstarter backers, with the goal being to let those unfamiliar with the game know by the title alone […]

  • Amazon hosting Rockstar and 2K Games sale

    Amazon is hosting a Rockstar Games and 2K Games sale with discounts Max Payne titles, Bully and more. Here’s just some of the offerings listed: Manhunt 2 PC Download $3.00 Max Payne 3 PC Download $4.00 Bully: Scholarship Edition PC Download $3.00 LA Noire Xbox 360 $2.95 L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition PC Download $6.00 […]

  • Destiny weekly reset video shows off Inferno Crucible gameplay

    We have a gameplay video featuring Inferno Crucible gameplay featured in the Destiny weekly reset for you. In it, Arekkz Gaming gives you a look at Inferno Crucible and goes over the various intricacies. You can read up on the weekly reset through the links.

  • Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Episode 2 available from today

    Episode 2 for Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is now available. If you’ve purchased the Complete Season, you’ll be able to download Episode 2 on PS3, PS4 and Xbox One. Steam players should see the episode go live around 9-10pm PST, and Xbox 360 owners should be able to download very early tomorrow morning, per Capcom […]

  • Here’s a sneak peek video for Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide

    Fatshark Games has released a sneak peek video for its upcoming Games Workshop title, Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide. Vermintide is a FPS, co-op action title coming to PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and its set during the End Times of the Warhammer universe in the city of Ubersreik. Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare video shows Ascendance DLC early access weapon

    As you know, Xbox Season Pass holders now have early access to the Ascendance DLC Pack bonus weapons for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Now you can watch a trailer for the weapon. The OHM directed energy hybrid weapon can switch between an LMG and Shotgun “on the fly,” and it also includes the OHM-Werewolf […]

  • March PS Plus games include OlliOlli 2, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty, more

    March PlayStation Plus titles have popped up on the PS Plus page. Noticed by NeoGAF user skynidas, the titles include: OlliOlli2 (PS4/VITA) Valiant Hearts: The Great War (PS4) Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty (PS4) Counterspy (PS4/PS3) Papo & Yo (PS3) Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment (PS3) A notice has also been posted on the EU PS […]