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2 Chief Financial Officers Left Activision Blizzard in 2019

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Activision Blizzard is down two senior executives so far in 2019. The game company has first put the Activision CFO Spencer Neumann on paid leave for cause unrelated to the company's financial performance, and he later joined Netflix. Today, we learned that Blizzard's CFO Amrita Ahuja left the company for Square.

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Activision Blizzard had a tough end of the year, caused by the announcement of Diablo: Immortal at BlizzCon. They are trying to cut costs in various ways, ranging from offering people money to leave the company to canceling Heroes Esports in 2019. Do you think both CFOs leaving the company will have positive effects on game development going forward? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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It's hard to say, whether or not this will be good for the company. My optimism tells me it will be considering the previous CFO was brought in by Activision. Hopefully they've learned that just because game development is expensive, doesn't mean you should be cutting costs. A good game is going to cost money, but if it's a well designed game it, it will make it's money back easily.

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Subjectively, there's nothing to look forward to from Blizzard any more. No interesting new releases for me, yet WoW Classic is somewhat anticipated by a dedicated player base. Hopefully, good devs will find themselves fresh innovative teams and interesting projects to work on. The only Blizzard game I play occasionally is HotS, but after the latest news I'm not sure the game will ever move in any direction.

 

The rotations mentioned in the OP are mostly business-wise strategies, big companies aim for profit and gaming industry provides for some good profit if done right. We will see more of such practices in the future for sure. 

 

This is everybody's fault though, A/B will continue to aim  for new markets (platforms) and new audiences. Dedicated fanbase will either hold and criticize or switch to other companies/franchises. Looks like the abyss between the consumers (players) and the company is growing and nothing can be done to revert this at this point. The data probably suggested that such changes will generate more profit than sticking to the old formula. You can't really stop this process, many companies do that now. At the same time, players should understand that there is no coming back to the good old times. 

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I'm cautiously optimistic, though I'm not gonna pretend like I have any good idea what this holds for the future. Having loved Blizzard games since the days of Blackthorne and Warcraft II, this has been the only time I've been seriously concerned for the direction of the company. Diablo on phones doesn't trouble me, but cost cutting measures for one of the biggest developers in the world? That's that *filtered* I don't like.

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34 minutes ago, FunnyGinMan said:

It's hard to say, whether or not this will be good for the company. My optimism tells me it will be considering the previous CFO was brought in by Activision. Hopefully they've learned that just because game development is expensive, doesn't mean you should be cutting costs. A good game is going to cost money, but if it's a well designed game it, it will make it's money back easily.

Can't tell how it will affect the company, but a CFOs influence on the end product is close to zero. Financial lead is a pretty strict role - if she didn't approve of a project, a different CFO won't do it either.

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33 minutes ago, Kuarinofu said:

Dedicated fanbase will either hold and criticize or switch to other companies/franchises. Looks like the abyss between the consumers (players) and the company is growing and nothing can be done to revert this at this point. 

The only suggestion that comes to mind is that the old fanbase is no longer the target audience of the company. I won't be surprised that A/B starts or already is doing well in the eastern markets, considering latest trends in their games.

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I

I think the A/B CFO situ will have no impact on the game unless they employ some draconian cost cutter who elects to buff their personal reputation by short term profit growth. It looks good on a graph when the costs go down b/c the profits soar. However, that rapidly levels off and the customer base, dissatisfied by long delays in customer service, poor game maintenance and decreased innovation begins to abandon the game. Survival in MMORPG is about the long game.

 

Open to any game suggestions. Don't like SciFi, 1st person shooter games, must have superlative graphics.

 

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It will affect nothing about game contents. Companies plan things over years. Even if 2 CFO leave, they will be replaced by 2 new or 1 (to cut costs). But Head Managers did not change, neither A/B politics, nor economic models. Old A/B is dead and things are going to be worst cause they "lost" most of their developers who are the core of a gaming company. 

We just have to hope new companies to rise up and make great games again. Blizzard WAS one of the best gaming company in early 2000's but time goes by and it is time for new groups to show what they are capable of to both gain money and entertain people. 

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Doesn't seem like this is going to change much, if anything at all. They simply left for even more lucrative positions, likely similar minded people will replace them.

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In my business, if you don't provide the customer what they are asking for, they will go elsewhere. CFO isn't really involved in the basic business sense. CEO is the fish that stinks at the head.

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3 hours ago, FunnyGinMan said:

It's hard to say, whether or not this will be good for the company. My optimism tells me it will be considering the previous CFO was brought in by Activision. Hopefully they've learned that just because game development is expensive, doesn't mean you should be cutting costs. A good game is going to cost money, but if it's a well designed game it, it will make it's money back easily.

This might shed some light https://youtu.be/eMw-5aYASkY

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Gotta wonder if these CFOs know the difference between a gaming ecosystem and other ecosystems. Like a robot that is unable to grasp common sense. These memory robots of Ivy Leagues are not limitless.  They don't have textbooks of evolving markets. Business is an art as much as a science. 

 

 

So blame these CFOs indirectly and reinstate HGC please?

Edited by greatCraft

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This article is testament to what drives a company like Blizzard Entertainment.

You can't rely on executives that aren't passionate about gaming and game design. They aren't in it for the passion, they're in it for the profits.

If you let the finance arm call the shots they'll leave *filtered* in tatters right before ducking out.

 

Edited by Abom

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11 hours ago, Ragingwolf said:

I guess wait and see how this pans out for WoW I guess. 

Probably the same as now, since WoW isn't their main focus anymore, which kinda reflects the state BfA was released in. Overwatch is their first title, followed by Hearthstone, and even OW received less content recently, likely more of the budget being shifted to their "unannounced projects".

Edited by Arcling

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I wrote it before - Blizzard reminds me a lot about Lucas Arts.

A company with a great name, awesome games and a good fan base. Everybody knew: If I buy a Lucas Arts game I get a high quality game.

Then they decided that Star Wars games are less risky, bring in more money.

Later they decided that SW games sold themselves, even if the quality wasn't that good - you could save money by cutting costs.

Where Lucas Arts is today is known.

There are a lot of companies that made great games - companies that don't exist anymore.

I admit, non of them was as big as Blizzard / Activision.

Nevertheless, I would not be surprised if in 10 years Blizzard / Activision will be quite unimportant.

IMO they are going downhill - and fast.

If I hade shares of the company I' dsell them ASAP.

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Blizzard activision will never be as good as Blizzard north was. north cared about their games and friends, activision only thinks about money.

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My bet is that they simply found better oportunities, either financially, non-financially or both. People come and go all the time. Truth be told, I can imagine how the gaming industry might not be a dream job for a high profile CFO. Let me explain why.

1. Daily business operations - even though games that include microtransactions are getting more and more common, this is still not quest the same as a continuous flow of operations in a regular, corporate sense. Once a game is released, it generates the majority of financial gain, sometimes supported by further cashflow, e.g. you buy new WoW expansion, but later you still pay the monthly fee.

2. Maintenence cost after release - let's compare games to a movie industry. Marketing costs aside, you spend all the money during the production (pre and post included). Then you just worry about the inflow, no / little further investment is required. Now think about the release of, say, Warcraft 3. You get the initial production cost, but still need people to maintain the game, servers, make improvements etc. You cannot simply abandon the game, people expect patches and the such like. Hence, some extra costs and planning, which go on for years, without much pay-off after the initial one.

3. Mindset of employees - I would find it difficult to imagine that an average employee at Blizzard is very much money / cost oriented. Apart from their salaries, this is probably their least concern. They came to make great games, it's their dream and their perception of the corporate efficiency is probably no more than reins they have to learn to live with.

So I would not be too concerned with those news. Especially as they are not directly connected with making games.

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The financial crisis that compromised world economy in 2008 was caused by idiot banker that prioritized short-term profit over an healthy economy. This is the same behaviour happening here: executives that cut cost in order to get short-term profit, regardless of the product quality on the long term. It's an idiot behaviour, of course. When money is predominant, everything gets corrupted. Game companies start small, make great games, then become juggernaut and begin to produce *filtered* games. At this point, developers leave company and found small companies, some of which will produce new great games. It's the cycle of money, that can be broken only when (when?) profit stops to be the priority. I guess (and fear) that Overwatch will be one of the last great games from Blizzard.

 

As for me, I'm sticking to WoW as long as it'll still be a quality game, and I'm already looking around for alternatives: thank God, Blizzard games are not the sole quality games.

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I think this is great news! I hope Activision Blizzard goes out of business! They did such a SS (*filtered* show) job in BfA it would be well deserved!

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On 1/6/2019 at 5:43 PM, Veremor said:

The financial crisis that compromised world economy in 2008 was caused by idiot banker that prioritized short-term profit over an healthy economy

I would say that this is imprecise, at the very least. This vid is actually great for quite an easy explanation:

 But apart from that you are probably right. People at Blizzard admit in anonym interviews that the financial departments have grown in prominence, much to a dislike of developers.

However, let's  remind ourselves that businesses are about profits and gaming industry is no different, Blizzard included.

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3 hours ago, VegaPl said:

I would say that this is imprecise, at the very least. This vid is actually great for quite an easy explanation:

In this video you can find the same thesis of mine, if you just substitute "banker" with "mortgage broker". However, what this video doesn't cite is that sub-prime lendings were made possible by de-regulamentation, that is, the destruction of banking regulamentation which used to protect an healty economy and finance, destruction made possible by an intense lobbying.

3 hours ago, VegaPl said:

However, let's  remind ourselves that businesses are about profits and gaming industry is no different, Blizzard included.

This line seems to justify and accept the status quo. It's like one says: "Let's remind ourselves that millions of persons in the world suffer starvation". This doesn't stop us to desire a better world and act in order to promote a change.

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19 hours ago, Veremor said:

This line seems to justify and accept the status quo. It's like one says: "Let's remind ourselves that millions of persons in the world suffer starvation". This doesn't stop us to desire a better world and act in order to promote a change.

Currently I play mainly HOTS, which is a free game. I did not spend a single dime on it and I always have it in the back of my head when I read the forums. I treat that fact as a self-restraint about whining about the game. I don't think we should necessarily see the general desire to be compensated for work as something bad or wrong. I also work to pay my bills 😉 So I partially do agree with the status quo. I'd be a hypocrite if I said I didn't.

What Blizzard always excelled at is that the end product was pristine. You knew that the money you spent was worth it, every bit of it. What might be worrying us thought is the uncertainty for the future - will Blizzard manage to deliver excellent quality when there is so much blabbering about lowering the costs? I want to believe they will.

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On 1/8/2019 at 9:06 PM, VegaPl said:

I don't think we should necessarily see the general desire to be compensated for work as something bad or wrong.

I have the same idea, and I'm definitely happy if a talented developer is paid abundantly, of course. But I'm not happy if a CFO earns millions of dollars and make the company worse, while at the same time Quality assurance and Customer support employees, which grew up dreaming of working for Blizzard, have an inadequate salary. I think money should be a means to an end, in this case to create a quality product and to sustain an happy life for all employees. A Blizzard employee aspires to create great games, while a CFO aims at increasing revenue. The status quo is that a CFO doesn't care about quality.

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