Will Activision ever make a romcom? What next-gen means for the industry’s biggest publisher

Eric Hirshberg

How PS4 and Xbox One slot into today’s “multidevice daisychain” will be more important than greater power in the next generation, says Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg.

In the new issue of Edge magazine, on sale October 24, we quiz the Activision exec on the battle between PS4 and Xbox One and how the publisher plans to embrace the ongoing, accelerating evolution of game design.

“If you look at the things that didn’t even exist when the current generation of hardware was introduced: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, smartphones, tablets… That whole suite of things we now can’t get through a day without didn’t exist when 360 and PS3 were launched, therefore they weren’t designed to particularly work well in those ecosystems – how could they [be]?” says Hirshberg. “Now the next generation of consoles is being designed to slot right in to be a part of that multidevice daisychain that we all have. I think this will be the element, much more than improved graphics, that will lead to the creative new ideas in game design – the fact that there are multiple devices and much more of a social signature.”

Hirshberg also emphasises the importance of indies in pushing the creative boundaries – “The ecosystem of innovation usually starts at the independent level in lots of art forms,” he says – and we also ask the Activision executive whether the publisher might consider moving beyond creating titles for familiar game-playing demographics – will Activision ever make the videogame equivalent of a romcom, for example?

Activision has plenty of experience in the core and kids’ game markets – is it looking into new ones?

“That’s a very provocative question,” replies Hirshberg. “However, I think there’s something to do with allowing different media to do what each media does well. When I think of games as an art form, they start with being transportive. Because they’re interactive, because you are more involved in the experience than in any other form of entertainment, it all starts with being transported. And obviously a natural place to want to transport people is into an experience they can’t have in their everyday lives. Sometimes that’s driving a fast car, sometimes that’s being a professional athlete, sometimes that’s being a rock star, sometimes that’s being a hero or going into a fantastical future.

“I think this is inherently what games do best and so I’d expect that to be the basis of games for a long time to come. I don’t know if romantic comedy fits that model. I think that’s something that movies and TV do well. There’s this strange desire to morph games into movies or have them behave more like movies; I don’t share that desire. Games are wonderful as they are and do different things better than other forms of media.”

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