Activision Starting to Take the Plastic Wrap off Its Mobile Strategy

Activision Blizzard is known for producing blockbuster hits like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.

Now the videogame maker is gunning for much smaller screens, including smartphones and tablets.

In an interview with All Things D, Activision Blizzard’s VP of Mobile Greg Canessa said to expect several mobile announcements as it invests more heavily in the space.

For starters, the Santa Monica, Calif., company is announcing today that it is creating a publishing arm that will bring third-party mobile games to market. Through the program, it will assist independent game makers with funding, development, distribution and promotion of their titles across both iPhone and iOS.

As part of the deal, developers will get the benefit of publishing their game under the Activision brand, while continuing to own the game’s intellectual property.

The shift to digital has been hard for many game companies to swallow, as it typically means shifting away from selling $60 games at retail to giving away free games that are monetized through advertising and virtual goods.

As part of today’s announcement, Activision said it is partnering with Flurry, a mobile analytics and advertising platform that works closely with thousands of mobile developers to help with this transition. Flurry will provide tools to Activision’s developers to help understand mobile development and distribution, while Activision will lend its expertise in making great videogames.

“Flurry can scout and find those indie developers that we should partner with,” Canessa said.

Flurry President and CEO Simon Khalaf said his company also will be able to help promote Activision’s first- or third-party titles, by cross-promoting the apps in its advertising platform, which reaches more than 250 million consumers a day.

To date, Activision has developed some of its own game titles for mobile, including Crash Bandicoot Nitro Cart 2; Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies, which is a rendition of the console version of the game; and Skylanders Cloud Patrol. The games cost, respectively, $6.99, $2.99 and 99 cents on the iPhone.

In the future, Canessa said Activision will experiment with releasing games for free, to be monetized through advertising and virtual goods.

There are a number of reasons why Activision decided that now was the right time to invest in mobile, Canessa said, including increased smartphone and tablet penetration and the capability of the devices.

“It made a company like us, that’s focused on mid-core and hardcore gaming, take a second look at the platform,” he said. “Two or three years ago, you couldn’t envision a world where you could put mid- or hardcore games on mobile.”

To date, Activision hasn’t talked about the importance of mobile very much, but it may not really be late to the game, after all.

Last week, Activision’s close competitor Electronic Arts said that a majority of its mobile game titles will become free by the end of the year, representing a shift away from the premium games market. Unlike Activision, Electronic Arts has been one of the largest mobile games developers on both Android and iOS, but it also represents one of the biggest holdouts when it comes to shifting to free.


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