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经济学人:游戏业的顶尖玩家

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Business; Face value;Top of his game;

商业;表面价值;游戏业的顶尖玩家;

Bobby Kotick of Activision Blizzard has helped the video-game industry grow up;

动视暴雪的鲍比·科迪克带动了电子游戏的茁壮成长;

Like many teenagers, Bobby Kotick was drawn to video games when they first appeared in the 1970s. He had an Atari, with its chunky plug-in cartridges and blocky graphics, and he liked to play “Defender” at the arcade. The young Mr Kotick also had an entrepreneurial streak: he sold bagels and soft drinks to people waiting in line for petrol during the 1979 energy crisis. How appropriate, then, that he has ended up as the boss of Activision Blizzard, the world’s largest publisher of video games.

当电子游戏在上个世纪70年代问世的时候,鲍比·科迪克和许多年轻人一样深深地被它所吸引。他有一款雅达利游戏机,里面有小型的子弹盒插件还有些块状图形,他喜欢在拱廊里面做“防守方”。(不好意思,很少玩游戏,对于这句话的描述好像有点不知所云)年轻的科迪克也拥有企业家的素质:在1979年能源危机的时候,他向排队等着加油的人们出售面包圈和软饮料。到头来,他成了世界最大的电子游戏发行商——动视暴雪的老板,也算是十分合理的。

So did Mr Kotick and the industry grow up together? Not quite. It would be more accurate to say that Mr Kotick was one of the people who helped the chaotic games business grow up, by applying a more rigorous approach to management. Many gamers dislike him, complaining that his bean-counting approach stifles creativity. But there is no denying his ability to get results: earlier this month his firm reported impressive sales and higher than expected profits of $195m for the three months to June.

科迪克是否和电子游戏这一产业共同成长呢?事实并不尽然。更准确的来说科迪克是帮助一团糟的游戏产业迅速成长的功臣之一,他运用了更严格的方法来进行管理。许多玩家则不太喜欢他,抱怨他的数量统计方法抹杀了创造力。但是他获得成功的能力却是毋庸置疑的:本月上旬,他公司报告了第二季度令人乍舌的销售额和比预期195,000,000美元更丰厚的利润。

Mr Kotick's big break came in 1983, when he was a student at the University of Michigan. He was about to leave for New York to meet potential investors in a firm he was setting up to make software for the Apple II computer when he met Steve Wynn, a casino tycoon, at a party. Mr Wynn was also heading to New York and offered Mr Kotick a lift in his private jet. “I went with him on the plane, and asked him how he got started,” Mr Kotick recalls. Mr Wynn explained that early in his career he had been helped out by E. Parry Thomas, a legendary Las Vegas banker, who helped finance Mr Wynn's takeover of the Golden Nugget casino. Mr Wynn had promised Mr Thomas that he would, in turn, give a helping hand to a young entrepreneur some day. He offered to invest in Mr Kotick's new company, and ended up writing him a cheque for $300,000. Mr Wynn became his mentor, and was involved in 1991 when Mr Kotick took over Activision, a failing games publisher founded by former Atari employees.

科迪克先生取得重大突破是在1983年,当时他还只是一个密歇根大学的学生。当时他准备前往纽约寻找潜在投资者,帮他创立一个为苹果二代电脑制作软件的公司。这时他在一个晚会上遇到了娱乐业大亨史蒂夫·永利(美国赌业大王)。永利也准备奔赴纽约,于是让科迪克乘坐他的私人飞机一同前往。科迪克回忆道:“在飞机上,我问他是怎么起家的。” 永利说在他事业早期E·巴利·托马斯帮他度过了难关。E·巴利·托马斯是拉斯维加斯的一位传奇的银行家,他帮助永利先生接管了金砖赌场。永利向托马斯承诺有朝一日要向一位年轻的企业家伸出援手来作为回报。永利向科迪克的新公司投资,给他开了一张30万美元的支票。永利成了科迪克的良师益友,并参与了科迪克1991年接管动视公司,这是一家濒临破产的游戏发行商,由雅达利前员工成立的。

The problem with the video-game industry at that point, says Mr Kotick, was that it lacked discipline. “We needed a balance”, he says, “between people who would be creative and entrepreneurial, and people who knew processes.” He brought in managers from packaged consumer-goods firms, including Procter & Gamble and Pepsi, to oversee the development of new games and to provide expertise in consumer testing and marketing. But he realised that it was also important to maintain a creative environment for designers. “In our business the key is that certain things lend themselves well to process, and certain things don't,” he says.

对于当时电子游戏产业面临的问题,科迪克表示这是因为缺乏纪律。他说:“我们要在那些具有创造力、创业精神的人和懂程序的人中找到一个平衡。”他把包装消费品公司的经理们请了过来,监督新游戏的研发并在消费者测试和市场营销方面提供专业意见,这些经理包括宝洁公司和百事公司的高管们。但是他也意识到给设计者一个具有创造力的氛围也是十分重要的。他说:“我们这一行业的关键就是某些事情自己能协调到位,而有些却无能为力。”

Through both growth and acquisitions he built Activision into a gaming giant. Today it is known for the “Tony Hawk” skateboarding games, the “Call of Duty” series of military shoot-'em-ups, and its “Guitar Hero” games, in which players must press buttons on a plastic, guitar-shaped controller in time with blaring rock music. Each of these is a brand in its own right and has spawned numerous versions and sequels. This has led to criticism that Activision's approach is too dependent on exploiting and re-exploiting franchises. But Mr Kotick vigorously denies that his company fails to innovate. “A small segment of very vocal gamers say everything has to be new and different every year,” he says. “Actually, people are happy with existing franchises, provided you innovate within them.” The trick, once again, is to strike a balance: between the familiarity of a trusted brand and “innovative and inspiring” new features.

通过发展和收购,他把动视公司打造成了游戏业的巨头。如今动视公司推出的很多游戏都是耳熟能详的,如“托尼·霍克”(又称“滑板天王”或“滑板高手”)、“使命召唤”系列(军事凶杀类游戏)还有“吉他英雄”(玩家必须伴嘈杂的摇滚乐及时的地按下塑料吉他造型的控制器)。上面的每个游戏都有各自的版权,不仅发行版本众多,而且还推出了好几代。这也遭到了不少批评,指责动视公司只会一味地依靠对现有游戏的重复研发。但是科迪克却坚决否定他的公司缺乏创新。他表示:“一小撮的玩家希望每年都能推出全新而且迥异的游戏。事实上,如果只在现有的游戏中进行创新,大家还是非常乐意的。”这次的关键又是抓住一个平衡——老品牌的熟悉感和新特点的创新度之间的平衡。

Mr Kotick's greatest coup was the merger of Activision with the gaming arm of Vivendi, a French media conglomerate, completed last year. Vivendi's main gaming asset was Blizzard, the firm behind “World of Warcraft”, a wildly popular online fantasy game played by 12m paying subscribers. Although the deal gave Vivendi a 54% stake in the merged firm, Activision's management team was kept in place to run it. Mr Kotick had wanted to get his hands on “World of Warcraft” for some time, because its subscription-based model provides regular income, in contrast to the sporadic, release-driven proceeds from games sold in shops. More than half of Activision Blizzard's operating profit now comes from subscriptions, he says: “‘World of Warcraft' is the most stable form of profitable revenue in the industry.”

科迪克的绝顶高招要属去年完成的合并动视公司和威望迪游戏分支,威望迪是法国的一个媒体集团。威望迪的主要游戏资产是暴雪公司,它旗下的“魔兽世界”是一款广受欢迎的网上奇幻类游戏,拥有1,200万付费玩家。尽管这次交易让威望迪在合并公司中占有54%的股权,但却是由动视的管理团队来运营。科迪克想插手“魔兽世界”已经有些时日了,因为“魔兽”的收费模式能保证源源不断的收益,不同于在商店里朝不保夕的游戏贩卖模式。现在动视暴雪一半以上的运营收入来自“魔兽”的收费,科迪克说:“‘魔兽世界'是这一产业中最稳定的盈利方式。”

Let's get physical

大家动起来

As the industry moves towards a greater reliance on subscriptions and online gaming, Mr Kotick's firm is on the right side of the trend. “Guitar Hero”, meanwhile, was an early example of “physical gaming”, in which players use special controllers to get closer to the on-screen action—another big industry trend, encouraged by the success of Nintendo's Wii console, with its motion-sensitive controls. Activision was quick to recognise that the Wii would broaden the appeal of gaming, and it is now the biggest producer of games for the Wii after Nintendo itself. “We are seeing new audiences emerge because of the physical nature of the experience,” says Mr Kotick. His firm's latest entries in the physical-gaming arena are “DJ Hero”, a music game in which the player handles a turntable, rather than a guitar, and a new version of “Tony Hawk” with a motion-sensitive skateboard control.

随着整个行业越来越倾向于付费模式和在线游戏,科迪克的公司算是走上了康庄大道。同时,“吉他英雄”算是早期“体力游戏”(此处希望高手能帮忙找个更贴切的词汇),玩这游戏玩家需要用一个特殊的控制器来操控屏幕上画面的动作,这又是游戏行业的另一潮流,任天堂成功地推出了具有动作感应的Wii手柄控制器推动了这一潮流。(注释:任天堂——日本的一个生产游戏机的公司;从“Wii”这个名字中,我们可以找到任天堂开发这款游戏机的创意之源。2006年5月,任天堂公司对外正式公布了这个名字。在当时的公告中,任天堂公司解读道:“Wii和单词‘we'(我们)的发音相近,这强调了它是为每个人所设计的。”名字中的i象征着Wii 独一无二的遥控手柄,而把两个i放在一起,则代表了任天堂把亲朋好友聚拢到游戏机周围的意图。和过去那些让孩子们孤僻地躲在卧室里不吃不喝的游戏机相比, Wii简直是在向家庭主妇们投怀送抱。)动视公司很快意识到遥控手柄能更广泛的吸引受众,如今动视公司已经成了继任天堂之后遥控手柄最大的生产商。科迪克表示:“我们看到了由于身体参与的体验带来了新的玩家。”其公司最新推出的进军“体力游戏”领域的有“DJ英雄”,它是一款音乐游戏,玩家把握转盘而不是吉他,还有新版的“托尼·霍克”,新增了动作感应的滑板控制功能。

So what games does Mr Kotick like to play at home? These days, he admits, he only indulges in the odd bout of “Guitar Hero” with his children. When he used to play more games, he says, he would find himself trying to tweak his firm's products to accord more closely to his own tastes. Such decisions are best left to product managers, he insists, who combine their own judgment with feedback from focus groups. The trick is knowing which bits of feedback to ignore. “That's the delicate balance,” he says. Mr Kotick looks rather incongruous as he proudly shows off his firm's new skateboard controller, putting it down on the floor and grinning as he wobbles to and fro. As he knows better than anyone, success in video-gaming is all about balance.

那么科迪克在家都喜欢玩什么游戏呢?他说,这些天他只钟情偶合和孩子们晚上一盘“吉他英雄”。他还说,要是像以前一样玩很多的游戏,他怕到时公司的产品都趋近于他的喜好了。他坚持认为,改进游戏的这种决定最好还是留给公司的产品经理,因为他们是综合固定群体的反馈意见来决定的。某些反馈意见应该忽略这一窍门也是众所周知的。他说:“那是一个微妙的平衡。”当科迪克骄傲的展示他公司的滑板控制器的时候,他显得格外的不协调,他把控制器放在地上,一边笑着一边前后摇晃。他比任何人都清楚,要在他的游戏里面取得成功,平衡至关重要。

重点单词   查看全部解释    
conglomerate [kɔn'glɔmərit]

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adj. 密集而固结的,成簇的 n. 联合企业,密集体,

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delicate ['delikit]

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n. 精美的东西
adj. 精美的,微妙的,美

 
setting ['setiŋ]

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n. 安装,放置,周围,环境,(为诗等谱写的)乐曲

 
sporadic [spə'rædik]

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adj. 不定时发生的,零星的

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ignore [ig'nɔ:]

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vt. 不顾,不理,忽视

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chaotic [kei'ɔtik]

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adj. 混乱的

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broaden ['brɔ:dn]

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v. 变宽,伸广

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plane [plein]

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adj. 平的,与飞机有关的
n. 飞机,水平

 
certain ['sə:tn]

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adj. 确定的,必然的,特定的
pron.

 
appropriate [ə'prəupriət]

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adj. 适当的,相称的
vt. 拨出(款项)

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