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Video game publishing giant Activision who are well known for publishing all of the games in the hugely successful Call of Duty series. On the 9thof July 2008 the deal was closed that Activision would merge with Vivendi Games who had already bought Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of such games as World of Warcraft and Starcraft. After the merger the company was known as Activision Blizzard Inc. despite French Conglomerate Vivendi SA owning a majority share in the company, former Activision CEO, Robert Kotick, was left at the head of the newly merged company.

The idea for the company came when four video game developers that worked for Atari got sick of helping them make hundreds of thousands of dollars for a $20,000 salary and not getting any credit for making the games. Four developers, David Crane, Bob Whitehead, Larry Kaplan and Alan Miller, went to an attorney with their idea of creating a company that developed and published video games that gave credit and recognition to the creators of the game. The attorney put them in touch with Jim Levy, an executive from the music industry who had the same idea. So on Monday the 1st of October 1979, Activision was born.

The company started off with creating a series of games for the Atari 2600 console and by 1983 had sold massive amounts of games. One of which was David Crane’s “Pitfall” which was and still is considered to be to be the first run and jump platform game and on its own sold over 4 million copies.

Soon after Activision became the worlds leading video games developer / publisher other small companies started to pop up everywhere trying to be the next Activision. This caused a slump in the market because non of these companies lasted longer than a year and their creations, although poor quality were been sold at a quarter of the price of Activision’s titles sometimes even less, because the companies that made them were out of business there was warehouses full of cartridges that had been made but not sold.

This slump caused Activision to take action and spread their Atari titles onto other platforms such as ColecoVision and Intellivision and also start publishing titles for the rising PC market that was emerging. 1984 saw the sequel to Crane’s “Pitfall”, “Pitfall II: Lost Caverns” and the first film tie in game, “Ghostbusters” which were both released over a variety of platforms including the Commodore 64 and the Atari 8-bit computer.

In the summer of 1986, Activision decided to help out a company called Infocom, the pioneers of the Text Adventure genre were struggling financially. Jim Levy was a big fan of Infocom’s titles and wanted to company to stay in business so he provided them with a way out by Activision buying Infocom. But soon after the “InfoWedding” as it was known, the board of directors at Activision decided that it was time for Levy to go and replaced him with Bruce Davis.

With Davis in control of the company it saw a change in leadership style and also in direction. Davis decided that he wanted to broaden the companies horizons and began to stick his finger into the Application Software market and changed the name of the company to Mediagenic despite still releasing games under the Activision label.

Soon after this the was non of the founding fathers left in the company as Larry Kaplan had left four years earlier, 1982, to take a Vice President position at Atari. Bob Whitehead and Alan Miller left in 1984 when Activision’s stocks started to plummet and they went on to form Accolade, another Third Party Games developer which was mostly comprised of ex-Activision employees, much like Activision started out with ex-Atari employees. Then after Jim Levy was replaced as CEO it left David Crane on his own surviving on his own in a currently failing company so in 1986 after the InfoWedding, Crane left Activision to join the first third party Nintendo publisher, Absolute Entertainment.

After this the company went from bad to worse until when in the early 1990’s, Mediagenic were overtaken by the BHK Corperation, headed by Robert Kotick. Kotick got the company back on the straight and narrow, by 1992 he had changed merged the Mediagenic with a company named The Disk Company and changed the corporation’s name back to Activision and decided to focus only on creating Video Games.

In the last twenty years the company have gone from strength to strength and as technology has grown, Activision has grown with it, creating hundreds of fantastic games that have influenced millions of people. They have acquired many games studios and also undergone a Merger with another video game developing/publishing giant in 2008 and come out of it with the same CEO and also as one of the biggest third party games publishers in the world.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1537/the_history_of_activision.php

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-01/27/pitfall-creator-david-crane-named-videogame-pioneer

http://investor.activision.com/timeline.cfm

Challenge 7: Self Reflection

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In this post I am going to be doing some self reflection, evaluation how I think I have done throughout the Challenges and how much I have learn since the start of the course.

I started the year and the course not knowing much about which direction it would end up taking me or what to expect from the course but with having such a small class number and a tutors that have a way of teaching that actually suits me down to the ground.

Started off with introductions to all of the units we are studying, learning so much new stuff about so many new programs and apps and also things on websites such as Twitter and various clients that go with it and Prezi, the alternative, and in my opinion better, way of making presentations.

Before I started the course I used to Twitter occasionally, normally at NUS Conferences because they have a projector screen with a twitter wall where all the tweets relating to a certain hash-tag float around the screen. But since I started the course I have become somewhat borderline addicted to Twitter. Everything I post now goes through Twitter as I have it set to automatically send my Tweets to Facebook. Also after looking at Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck, I now have an app called Twidget that sits on my Mac dashboard.

Another thing that I did occasionally use before I started the course was Blogging, I used Google’s Blogger to make a blog for my A2 Media Studies coursework to show my progress and all the work that I had done, much like I am doing now, however Blogger and Tumblr lacked the qualities that I was looking for to create the kind of blog I really wanted to create and they were the only two blogging websites that I had heard of until we were all introduced to the wonder that is WordPress. It has just got such a smooth interface to use, fully customisable blog and dashboard and also one of the things that I have found massively useful is the ability to organise everything into categories so with having multiple units and assignments and such it is easy to find what you are looking for without having to search through all the posts to find it.

After a couple of weeks on the course, meeting new people, getting to know them and getting to know new tutors that I had never met before and a whole new way or learning along with a brand new Macbook to learn how to use I soon found myself getting a hell of alot more interested in the Professional Practice unit and all the challenges we have been doing that go along with it. Things from researching areas of the media from the 1990’s to producing a case study on the newest Call of Duty game which lead me to doing research into the developers that were involved in the franchise, the history of them and also the history of the Publisher Activision.

Every time I write a blog post or do some research into something, I always end up looking back over it and thinking “Oh, theres not really alot of work here” but then listening to some of the comments around the room and some things that people have said to me it makes it sound as though I have done alot of work. There is something about Blogging all my assignments that I find alot more comfortable to do than writing essays in a text editor such as Microsoft Word or writing them down on paper, I somehow find Blogging a more informal way of doing the work and I end up getting immersed in the work that I am doing, especially if it is something that requires a lot of my own opinion and things that are coming out of my head rather than other sources because the words just come out a lot more fluently. Just looking down after explaining what doesn’t seem a lot has turned out to be nearly 700 words and its that kind of thing that I find easy, because with Blogging, their is no right or wrong way to present something because it is a persons personal log about what they have done and what they have found out, apposed to just having loads of facts and figures on a page that make people loose interest in what people are talking about.

Going on to discuss the other units, the Interactivity unit is interesting, changing interfaces and improving them or creating your own, however I have found it fairly difficult to find things that I would change on interfaces because I use them day to day and to me, I just accept them as how they are and If I encounter a problem then I will find a way around it or over it without changing the interface itself. Learning to use the software like Adobe Flash and also learning more skills on Adobe Photoshop have been really interesting as I’ve always wondered how people created flash animations and games. Even starting off with something as simple as Shape Tweens and Motion Tweens really interested me, I managed to make shapes fly around the screen, change shape and change colour all at the same time which actually blew my mind the first time I did it!

Going onto the VAL unit, we have learnt how to use so many different pieces of computer software. Mostly stuff made by a company called Autodesk, the main program being 3D Studio Max (3DSMax) then we went onto using other programs such as Mudbox and Maya which are all created by Autodesk. We have also looked at Augmented Reality looking at a piece of software created by BMW to show off their Z4 car and how it has been incorporated with Augmented Reality. We also looked at something that created our very own First Person Shooter game.

So all in all, I am enjoying the course, I have learnt so much stuff so far, from tutorials and guest speakers that have been in to talk to us and what they do and also from researching into various topics.


The Fairtrade Foundation

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In this post I am going to be talking about Ethical Branding and one of the things that jumped into my head when we were told about this was The Fairtrade Foundation. I know what your thinking, heres Sam talking about food again. However, The Fairtrade foundation is a registered charity in the United Kingdom (no. 1043886), and they were founded in 1992 which ties in nicely with the other posts I have done in this unit that relate back to the 1990’s. 

What the Foundation does and what it aims to do

The mission statement of The Fairtrade Foundation, taken from their website is,

“The Foundation’s mission is to work with businesses, community groups and individuals to improve the trading position of producer organisations in the South and to deliver sustainable livelihoods for farmers, workers and their communities by –

–> Being a passionate and ambitious development organisation committed to tackling poverty and injustice through trade
–> Using certification and product labelling, through the FAIRTRADE Mark, as a tool for our development goals
–> Bringing together producers and consumers in a citizens’ movement for change
–> Being recognised as the UK’s leading authority on Fairtrade”

Most of you are asking what the Fairtrade foundation actually does, and there is no way that says it better than the section on The Fairtrade Foundation‘s website so below, is a copy of what the foundation does and what the main areas they work within are.

“Our four key areas of activity are:

–> Providing an independent certification of the trade chain, licensing use of the FAIRTRADE Mark as a consumer guarantee on products
–> Facilitating the market to grow demand for Fairtrade and enable producers to sell to traders and retailers
–> Working with our partners to support producer organisations and their networks
–> Raising public awareness of the need for Fairtrade and the importance of the FAIRTRADE Mark

The Foundation works to the definition of Fair Trade agreed by FINE, a working group of the four international Fair Trade networks (Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International, International Fair Trade Association, Network of European World Shops and the European Fair Trade Association):

Fair trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalised producers and workers – especially in the South”

History of the Foundation

The foundation was founded by the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (CAFOD), The World Development Movement, Oxfam, Trade craft and Christian Aid, back in 1992 and they were soon joined by the worlds largest women’s movement, the Women’s Institute (The WI) who are normally known for their cracking Victoria Sponge Cakes. The first product to be Certified by the Foundation was Green and Blacks: Maya Gold Chocolate back in 1994 which was made with Cocoa from Belize. This was soon followed by  Clipper Tea and Cafedirect Coffee.

In January 1997, a campaign was launched to target Institutions and Restaurants as the Fairtrade Coffee has become more widely available to the catering trade.

Jumping into the new Millenium saw a massive boost in the amount of companies that became involved in the Fairtrade movement, local councils, big corporate giants such as what is now known as Aviva and even the Government Houses started to change their catering facilities to fairtrade tea and coffee. However, there was one company that were seeming to be getting more involved than most and that was The Co-operative (The Co-op) by introducing the first Bananas to carry the Fairtrade Mark and also the first Milk Chocolate bars to carry it as well.

Fact: Copmanthorpe Methodist Church in York becomes the 1000th in the UK to achieve ‘Fairtrade Church’ status from the Fairtrade Foundation.

As it Currently stands there are a lot of big name companies that have become involved over the past decade. Big name super markets like Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose have started producing their own brand products with the Fairtrade Mark on them as well as The Co-op increasing their range of own brand fairtrade products. Also, Cadbury, chocolate manufacturing giant, had their Dairy Milk bar recognised by the foundation and given the Fairtrade Mark.

There is now bits of everything that have been recognised by the Fairtrade foundation such as Beauty Products to Beer and from Coffee to Cotton.

Public Opinion

In many ways I think that there are both good and bad things that are perceived my the general public about Fairtrade products. One of the main ones is the price of products, they think that much like Organic food, that Fairtrade food is more expensive but in reality its not. It just means that the money that is spent on the product is going back to those who grow it and not just the people that manufacture the end product. Despite this, there is still a large number of the population that believe in what the Fairtrade foundation is doing and try their best to buy all their products as fair trade. I think that when people see the Fairtrade mark, people also think of a better product because they relate it to someone actually growing the raw materials and care put into it instead of just something coming out of a factory. All in all, I think that The Fairtrade Foundation is a great thing because in the long run, it helps everybody in one way or another.

Sources
http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/what_is_fairtrade/fairtrade_foundation.aspx
http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/what_is_fairtrade/history.aspx

Challenge 5: Marketing

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In this post I am going to be talking about Marketing Strategies to market a product and how different strategies work better for different products.

2 of the things that have quickly become huge tools of Marketing in the last few years are Facebook and Twitter, despite the fact they are social networking sites, they are one of the fastest ways to get to millions of people. Its kind of like a Snowball effect, someone creates a group and invites a load of people, then they tell two friends, then their friends will tell two more friends. Soon millions of people know within a matter of days. This is one of the ways that Rage Against the Machine got the the christmas number one last year!

There are several other ways of effective marketing that get to a wide audience very quickly, one of which being Television adverts, but also uploading the television adverts to the internet, to places such as Youtube.com because its all well and good putting it on the TV but when you put it on the internet people can send the video link to their friends, embed it to their website play it over and over at their own digression meaning that millions of people, some of which may not even watch TV will see the advert and hear about the product. This is the same with Magazine adverts! It is all well and good putting the advert into a magazine but then it only targets the people that read that particular magazine, where as if you put it in the magazine and also put the advert on the internet, in blog posts, facebook pages, websites as an image file then more people will see it!

There are many other ways except the standard conventions of the widespread media. Making flyers and posters and putting them up in shop windows and handing them out across towns and citys. Give samples of the product out to people to have a look at. Or you could do what a band called Nine Inch Nails did which was put some of their music on small USB memory sticks and leave them dotted around in random places for people to find.

These tools and strategies may all work individually but in recent years the internet has become one of the most powerful tools known to mankind and can speed up and multiply the marketing and publicising of things exponentially. With Social Networking and Online Shopping and people writing Blogs just like this one, the information highway is the fastest and best marketing tool out there!

Launch of Black Ops

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To finish off this Case Study on Call of Duty: Black Ops, I am going to write a little bit about the launch of the game.

The game was launched on the 9th of November 2010 and once again Activision have not failed to impress. Before the launch of Black Ops their previous 2009 release Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 held the record for the biggest entertainment launch in the world, standing at a whopping 4.7 million copies of the game worldwide, amounting to a $310 million revenue in the first 24 hours of launch which is impressive to say the least!

Black Ops however, blew this out of the water by selling an impressive 5.6 million copies of the game in the first 24 hours, consisting of the Normal Edition of the game, the Hardened Edition of the game and the Prestige Edition of the game, all of which come with different bonus items for the player to have extra fun with. This has amounted to a massive $360 million in revenue for Activision. Despite being created by a different developer than Modern Warfare 2 the game seems to have sold better. It will remain to be seen as to if Infinity Ward will beat this once again with rumours of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 currently being in production.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Prestige Edition

Sources
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-20022509-17.html
http://callofduty.wikia.com/wiki/Call_of_Duty:_Modern_Warfare_2
http://callofduty.wikia.com/wiki/Call_of_Duty:_Black_Ops
http://news.teamxbox.com/xbox/23252/Call-of-Duty-Black-Ops-Sales-Top-360-Million/

An Overview of Call of Duty: Black Ops

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Before I start on the hardcore facts and figures and the marketing schemes that worked well for the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops im going to write my thoughts on the game itself and how I thought the game compared to its predecessors.

The first time I heard they were bringing a new Call of Duty game out, I was excited to see what would come out and how it would live up to my expectations. It wasn’t long after that when I saw the trailer for the game,

After seeing that trailer It got me quite excited to play the game because it showed the characters wearing Vietnam war era clothing and webbing and I like the whole Vietnam war era webbing and arms such as the M1956 webbing and the M14 rifle. It wasn’t long after seeing the standard trailer that I saw the other official trailer for the game that featured the song “Wont Back Down” by Eminem and P!nk which fitted extremely well with the trailer.

Both of these trailers can be found on the official Treyarch Youtube.com Channel

Treyarch Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Treyarch

When it came to the launch of the game, I was eager to play the game however I didn’t get caught up in the hype and stand in the launch day queues as I don’t actually own a console to play the game on as my Xbox 360 overheated and broke due to over playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare for a very long time. A few days after release I went to a friends house to play the game.

We started off by playing on the “Zombies” mode which it would appear that Treyarch have just taken the same feature that was on Call of Duty: World at War, changed the guns and the maps to make it fit with the rest of the theme of the game and left it at that, its basically just painting an old room with a new colour which didn’t impress me much if im honest.

The cover of the Black Ops game case

After playing the Zombies mode of the game, we then went onto playing the Multiplayer mode against each other, just four of us playing on split screen. We were hoping that it would live up to our expectations of the fantastic Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer mode, but alas, it didn’t. I loved the fact you could customise your own character and dress him in a multitude of combinations of clothing and weaponry which was great from an aesthetic point but its the gameplay that really matters. When it came down to the game play there is massive room for improvement. Sure there is a variety of maps to choose from however the gameplay is a straight set and non customizable. In Modern Warfare 2 you could change how much health that the players had and the regeneration time of that health therefore meaning you could set it to a more realistic difficulty. Just as you can turn the radar off so that it makes it more realistic too. You could turn off the kill cam so that it doesn’t show you how you died and you can just carry on with the game. The Multiplayer mode in BlackOps doesn’t let you change any of that which means that you could be stood there unloading silly amounts of ammo into someone and they would just carry on shooting back instead of falling to the floor. That however is just my personal opinion, liking whatever I shoot to stay down and liking my games to be as realistic as possible.

Anyway thats enough about the bad parts of the game, its time to give this long awaited instalment of the well know series its due. The Story mode is fantastic! I loved it, even if you havent played any of the other games in the series then it is easy to follow and easy to get into. The control system is easy to get the hang of as it is the same as the last three games in the series which means existing players won’t have to learn a new set of controls allowing to swap and change and play most of the games in the series without having to adapt their gaming style for each one they play. The way all the surroundings are designed, all the sounds all the little things that might seem insignificant are all equally important in this game. There are so many combinations of guns and accessories to use on the guns that there is always a different gun to use in a different situation. The bottom line of it it that the Story line, the Character design and the Scenery design are all amazing. Its a game that keeps you engaged all the way through the story mode and leaves you wanting more of the story. So I would recommend playing Call of Duty: Black Ops if you are a player that plays for fun and enjoys playing the single player story modes but if you are a player that enjoys playing the multiplayer split screen with a few friends while having a giggle then I would recommend playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Activision, Infinity Ward and Treyarch

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In this post I am going to investigate a little into the history and the background of Video Games Publisher Activision and Games Developers Infinity Ward and Treyarch, the two main contributors to the Call of Duty franchise!

First of all I will start off with Publisher Activision as they have published all of the games in the Call of Duty series and also such well known video games series’ such as Crash Bandicoot, Tony Hawks and Spyro the Dragon. On the 9th of July 2008 the deal was closed that Activision would merge with Vivendi Games who already owned Blizzard Entertainment who created such games as World of Warcraft and therefore meaning that the company, after the merger would be known as Activision Blizzard Inc. despite Vivendi SA owning a majority share in the company, Robert Kotick, former Activision CEO sits at the top of the company as CEO for the newly merged company.

Activision was first founded on the 1st of October 1979 and became the worlds first ever company to become both an independent developer and distributer and also became the first third party video games publisher in the world. After merging in 1986 with a text based games developer called Infocom there was a change in leadership and direction for the company as in 1988 they decided to stick their fingers into other areas of software and began to market Application Software. Thus the company changed their name to Mediagenic despite still releasing games under the Activision label.

Robert Kotick CEO of Activision Blizard Inc.

Soon after that, there was yet another change in leadership as the company was taken over in 1991 by current CEO Robert Kotick. Kotick restructured the company and merged Mediagenic with a company called The Disk Company in and changed the companies name back to Activision in 1992. One of the reasons for this is that in 1991 Mediagenic lost $26.8 million in revenues and almost went bankrupt.

Lets skip ahead a bit because there is so much more I could talk about in the history of the company but it is not really relevant as it doesn’t link directly to the Call of Duty series. Before I move onto talking about Infinity Ward and Treyarch I shall give you a brief time line of Activision‘s activities that link to the Call of Duty games.

2000: Activision made an equity investment into Grey Matter Interactive
2001: Activision
acquired Treyarch
2002: Activision
made an equity investment into Infinity Ward
2003: Activision
acquired Infinity Ward

Now you’ve seen a little insight into the history of Activision and when they acquired the two major developers that worked on the Call of Duty series.

Lets look at Infinity Ward first because even though Activision acquired Infinity Ward before they acquired Treyarch, Infinity Ward entered into the Call of Duty franchise first with the development and release of the first game in the series.

Infinity Ward was originally founded in 2002 in California. The company was founded by Grant Collier, Jason West and Vince Zampella who along with the other 19 founding employees of the company all worked on the Medal of Honor: Allied Assault project for TwentyFifteen Inc. As of November 2010, Infinity Ward has about 70 employees working for them.

Treyarch however had a few more years experience under their belt and a few more hit titles, such as Tony Hawks Pro Skater and Spiderman, before they were acquired by Activision. Treyarch was founded in 1996 and was acquired by Activision in 2001. Four years later in 2005 after Activision had made an equity investment into Grey Matter Interactive and acquired Treyarch, the two merged into one and games are no longer recognised by the name Grey Matter Interactive.

Sources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activision_Blizzard
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activision
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivendi
http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/history2/7/Activision-Inc.html
http://www.c64-wiki.com/index.php/Activision
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinity_Ward
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treyarch

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