How to Stay Classy, For Video Game Companies
‘Up First, Treyarch, IW, and Activison’
If you have been following the Respawn Vs. Activision feud, it has been fairly interesting. An article detailing the ongoing feud can be found here http://www.destructoid.com/activision-west-zampella-wanted-to-steal-infinity-ward-170642.phtml
Reading through the whole thing, and it is massive. It reads less like a lawsuit, and more like two spouses in a bitter divorce.
Overall, I have tried very hard to remain subjective. It was entirely possible that Activision did everything right. I understand those who might say, that is impossible, just as it also unlikely that West and Zampella were perfect angels.
Though lately, I have seen some more things that make me wonder exactly what kind of maturity level exists at Activision and IW and Treyarch through the continued debacle of the PS3 and PC versions of Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Jason Koblosky, a blogger, passed around an email which you can see at http://jasonkoblovsky.blogspot.com/2011/01/activision-threatens-to-pull-psn.html
from a support person who said in short, that if PS3 users continued to complain Treyarch and Activision were well in their right to cut off multiplayer support for the PS3 copy of Black Ops. This became a lightning rod, of sorts, and talk of legal action has never been higher.
I understand the anger; I bought the PS3 version of CoD to play with my best friend and my cousin. I also spent years working in customer service, and I had enough experience to read the correspondence back from support to Jason, that the support person had been pushed pretty far and was probably pushing back with a little anger.
I know Activsion and Treyarch understand problems with the PS3 version and the PC version. Complaining is not going to force Treyarch to force the entire development team to suddenly drop everything and not stop working till they get it patched up and playing perfectly. If you want to do something, stop purchasing Activsion products, and don’t purchase anything developed by Treyarch.
I was remaining objective, until this happened.
Okay Activision, you are a huge global companym try and show some class. This reeks of a plant to just infuriate PS3 gamers a sort of ‘laugh at your problem’ Easter egg. Every man has his breaking point, and this hit mine.
‘O Zelk’ you might be saying ‘It was probably an honest mistake’ where I say that is bullshit. A QA guy with maybe a day worth of experience would have noticed that. It was a way of venting off frustration for the guys at Treyarch.
Treyarch team, I understand. There is a ton of Teyarch hate on the Internet, such as you being IW hanger-on and how your games are less superior to IW offerings. You were probably put under 60 hour works weeks the moment WaW wrapped up so that you could get Black Ops out for Christmas. You were probably pressured to ignore small and even some big problems with the PS3 and PC version as you knew you had a timed exclusive deal with Microsoft as well as your marketing budget was for the Xbox 360 version. You were probably ordered to work primarily on the Xbox 360 version as opposed to other versions.
Never the less, that is not an excuse to ‘flip the bird’ to your customers, ever. I don’t care if you are Treyarch, Activistion, or a small town baker. The customer is your focus and the reason you have a job. A job I might add, that thousand dream of having. Show some pride, and be a big enough of an adult to empathize with the problems some consumers are having and learn to ignore those who have nothing constructive to say.
I also know that good customer service starts at the management, and trickles down. So this next part, is for the heads of Activison, IW, and Treyarch.
You are smart business people, I know that. What you have done with Call of Duty has been truly great, and has been a great business model that nearly the entire industry is trying to adopt. If I may, let me give you a few pointers.
The Respawn situation came down to money and loyalty. West and Zampella left the premier job at one of the top gaming companies. This should be a wakeup call, as you would have to have some great reasons to walk away from millions of dollars. Money was probably a big issue, and I understand Activision heads, it’s not personal, it’s business. Yet, you could have easily seen some of the writing on the wall. I have never seen an employee leave over money without mentioning it at least once to their boss. Even so, the most lowly paid employee will stay because of loyalty as long as basics are met (pay, vacation, decent people to work with) There are obviously some very frustrated employees and their frustrations are seeping through and are impacting customer service.
I am sure you are thinking, ‘We just sold millions of copies’ we will keep continuing on like normal. Remember what I said about writing on the wall; always be reaching to be better. Never be complacent. Sam Walton, the original owner, or Wal-mart derided complacency, saying ‘If we refuse to change, or competition well and we will be out of business.’
I also have to touch on the quality assurance of the PS3 and PC versions. I know, I know, it has been a headache for you. Ultimately, though you have to take responsibility. You made the decision to have it out by Christmas, you were probably hoping to squeeze a bit more profit, and probably chose to ignore some of the major issues that your QA department was reporting and probably forced employees into overtime instead of hiring more people. On top of that, the high volume sales probably made the network connection problems worse than even you anticipated.
But that is not an excuse; Nintendo the premier gaming company has had one of the most successful longest running series of games with Mario. Each game has been stellar for over three decades. I want to see Call of Duty to be stellar for another three decades. Nintendo’s secret has been that each game has been playable with a minimal of bugs and definitely without any game breaking bugs. It took 30 years for someone to find a way to glitch over the flag in 1-1 in the original Mario Bros. That shows how truly well that game still holds up.
Finally, I want to touch on my expertise with customer service, and focus on that response from your support to that blogger. It may seem like professional, well reasoned response. From a professional standpoint it clearly inflamed the customer rather than resolving the situation. This is a big reason why you are looking at an impending lawsuit. You might say, ‘Well that’s okay games are sometimes buggy we will win in court’, but that is very dangerous. A day in court is a ‘Lose Lose’ situation.
I have been to the forums on your site, and to be honest is angry, retaliatory, and real discussion is hard to come by. If you are going to sell millions of copies of your game, you need a team of moderators and community managers. Not the small team that most companies hire, you need a veritable platoon of moderators and community managers. I can only imagine reading some of the anger posted there day and day out. It’s no wonder that your employees are angry. It’s hard to read different versions of ‘You Suck’ without getting angry and or getting depressed. Neither helps you, your employees, or your customers.
Simply announcing, that you are fixing the game and answering your harshest criticisms would alleviate some of this, but instead with retaliatory responses will only infuriate those who have decided to hate your company and that is the last thing you want. I have noticed my copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops is getting better, and I can take that. But you have to remember that above all else, you are a professional company. And any professional company prides itself on taking care of the customer, because ultimately they are the reason you have your job.