Giving the artists their due. (Philosophy - how it ought to be) Jim Levy.
We at Activision are delighted to participate in this 10th anniversary celebration by Creative Computing, one of the pioneers in the field of personal computing journalism and one of the early sources of my education on the personal computing business.
Activision was also a pioneer. At the time we were founded, the independent computer software industry consisted mostly of very small creative units which seemed to operate mostly from bedrooms and garages. The lion's share of software available in 1979 was produced or distributed by the leading hardware manufacturers. Activision was the pioneer attempt by an independent software producer to go head to head with the majors.
We also pioneered a concept of original product and artist development about which much has been written, discussed, and debated over the last few years. Yet, despite Activision's success and the widespread acceptance of the concept among many of our competitors, there is still a lot of question today about how it works and whether "the artist can be trusted" to produce work that finds widespread market acceptance. Imitation vs. Imagination
Much of the work in home computer entertainment and video game software over the last five years has been drawn directly from sources outside the industry--video game arcades, movies, books, board games. When Activision began, most companies felt that success was dependent on the acquisition of one or more of the relatively few successful arcade licenses that became available each year, because such licenses seemed to promise automatic hits. This process expanded to movie themes, books, television series, and the like.
Activision, on the other hand, believed that the key to success in the software industry was the development of talent, not the acquisition of rights. We believed then and now that, while the acquisition of an arcade title may provide for some near-term sales success, the development of talent is the strategy which is critical not only to a software organization's ability to compete over the long term but to the very development of the industry. We believed that the industry eventually would be almost totally dependent on original talent working to create new and exciting entertainment software for millions of home computer owners.
This philosophy of artist development and recognition was directly opposed to the way the major software entities were creating software in 1979, but was obvious to those of us who founded Activision. Three of us were creative people who were looking for artistic freedom and market recognition. I had spent a number of years in both the publishing and recorded music industries where the strategic importance of artist development and recognition in those industries is a foregone conclusion. It never really occurred to us to do it any other way.
Our philosophy of artist development and creative recognition has been instrumental to Activision's success. We have been able to expand our talent roster and provide new creative and market opportunities to many software designers over the last few years. Creativity Joins Technology
The future of our industry rests as much on its creative strength and diversity as it does on technological developments. It was the extraordinary explosion of software in the 1980-82 period that drove the rapid growth of video games. Now we have a new generation of hardware with which to work--home computers like the Commodore 64, the Atari computers, the PCjr. Each is capable of doing great things, but is totally dependent--at least for most users--on the quality of software available in the marketplace.
Without continuing growth in and diversity of creative talent in the software industry, both the software and hardware industries will continue to suffer the kinds of difficulties we have experienced during the last year.
Not all of the problems that our industry has faced since early 1983 were founded in software creativity. Nevertheless, a cursory review of much of the software released in the industry in the second half of 1983 shows a certain stagnation in creative style, concept, and content. We had begun to repeat ourselves. And, the consumer could see it. Even at the January 1984 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there were very few exciting, new creative ideas. Much of what we saw was either a re-hash or a copy of earlier concepts updated with a few new bells and whistles.
Our major challenge in the industry in the years to come is to continue to discover and develop new creative talent--the software leaders of the next half of the decade. This does not mean that we cast aside the creative geniuses who helped build the industry over the last five years. Most of them still have a great deal of energy to bring to the development of new ideas.
However, if our industry is to continue to grow, it must continue to expand in the breadth and depth of creative product we offer to the consumer. This can happen only if we are continually developing new talent. Whether the talent works individually or in teams, as stars or as behind the scenes contributors, it is creative leadership and diversity that will determine whether the home computer software industry will achieve its true potential for greatness by the end of this decade.