It’s OK Not To Trust Blizzard (Or Any Other Company)
Here’s A Story
I start a company with the intent of making the most perfect-amazing-high-quality games/toys/movies/tampons/electric hedgehogs. I work my ass off day and night, with no weekends and few holidays, slowly establishing a presence as the premium creator of games/toys/movies/tampons/electric hedgehogs. I sell the best items you can get and pride myself on the integrity that drives my company and all of my employees. Life is good for everyone. For a while.
Eventually another company takes note of my success with said high quality games/toys/movies/tampons/electric hedgehogs and ponders how my business could add value to their business. They come knocking at my door with offers of mergers and buy outs. They offer a lot of money and money is good. It would change my life, my family’s lives, my children’s lives and everyone’s lives directly around us. So I take the cash because it’s the best thing to do. Don’t complain, you’d do it too.
Slowly my company, which I no longer have a controlling stake in but still work for, starts making changes to my products. The games become slightly less fun, the toys less safe, the movies less thoughtful and interesting, the tampons less smooth to apply and the electric hedgehogs less electric (in fact they are simply now just dead hedgehogs). I would complain but I can’t because I no longer have the right to. I sold my control and thus my say.
After a while the integrity and motivation behind my products is gone completely. It’s natural, I suppose, because the people who now own it didn’t create it, they didn’t give birth to it or nurture it with the same vision as I had. To them, the act of purchase was just a business deal. They spent money and now they want it back along with something for their efforts. That’s normal. They also continue their search for new opportunities, for other companies to absorb, all in the name of growth and profit.
If the story above sounds familiar then that’s because it happens a lot in real life. Companies, no matter the industry, buy and sell other companies all in an attempt to make more profit. You can’t expect a company that buys another to truly believe in the vision and mission of them because, ultimately, they didn’t pour the same love and attention into it as the founders did. In most cases, acquisitions are fueled by the potential to make more money otherwise they wouldn’t occur. Company A sees an opportunity in Company B that they can exploit and thus offers to buy them over. Company A then needs to either make changes in Company B or somehow further develop them in an attempt to get their cash back. That’s just normal business practice.
It would be naive to think that anyone would sell a company without the understanding that something would have to fundamentally change after the purchase. That might be staff layoffs, alterations to the product or relocation of factories or development centers. It’s perfectly logical and something we shouln’t be surprised at. If a company sells, changes are going to happen. It’s natural and part of the freedom of our economies.
Why OK It’s Not To Trust Blizzard Or Anyone Else
I read a great article by Larisa today in which she ponders her trust of Blizzard. I wanted to say in response to her post simply that it’s perfectly OK not to trust them. I mean this of course on an entity level and not on the individual one. Like her, I do trust and admire the developers, designers and other employees but on a company level we have to recognise that their primary motivations are always going to be growth and profit.
The history of Blizzard is a pretty murky one but when Vivendi, their owner at the time, merged with Activision in 2008, wheels were set in motion that would change the face of the business model driving the games produced by Blizzard. Perhaps unlike in the early days, the goals behind our beloved video games were no longer the ones of high quality, gaming pleasure and value for money but instead of profit and gain.
As is described in Larisa’s article, it seems as if the developers in Blizzard no longer have any say in the direction or future of their products beyond the basic gameplay level. Sad? Yes. Shocking? No. It’s just business after all and we shouldn’t be surprised when we discover that the motivations behind our games aren’t all that altruistic or pleasant. The guys who are actually producing the goods may want to make the best, most enjoyable and quality product they can but the the guys holding the reigns won’t be so interested.
We shouldn’t feel malice or spite or anger towards this situation though because, as I illustrated in my fictional example, it’s just a fact of life and I defy anyone to say that they wouldn’t be willing to sell out their own company, no matter how much they believed in it, if the price was right.
The Scary Future
Capitalism swings both ways though and we, the consumer, have the power to make or break companies by voting with our wallets. This bond of money acts as the principle concept behind capitalism and the free market, the belief that sub-quality products will lose favour with the consumer and thus result in loss of money. The idea essentially is that’s all a giant sew-saw with consumers on one end and companies on the other with both parties always trying to find the right balance.
That’s all fine and dandy on paper but there is something that really, truly, deeply scares me more than anything else: when we do things without realising the consequences, when we act before we’re even defined as consumers, when we’re beguiled by companies who masquerade as free and fair.
I’m, of course, talking about companies like Facebook and what they might have in store in the future for us. For instance, Blizzard has now just struck a deal with them and the whole thing just plain unnerves me. Between them both, Blizzard and Facebook have access to a huge amount of information about us all, everything from our credit card information to where we went to school. I know, I know, time for me to start wearing a tinfoil hat and hiding from the CIA in my basement but we have to consider the possibility that Facebook/Activision Blizzard may decide to sell out to someone else, another company who doesn’t have issue abusing all the private information gathered about us all. That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?
I guess what I’m saying is that we should enjoy our games and enjoy our social networking and enjoy everything that’s there but we shouldn’t feel guilty about mistrusting the intentions of these suppliers. After all, we owe them nothing and they don’t always have our best intentions at heart.