(I should figure out what this trackback stuff is all about some day.)
Activision and EA mostly strategize by a different theory, which I've mentioned before: tight / aggressive.
For the most part, they only back sure things. And on those titles (hands?) they raise the stakes through the roof, spending insane amounts on development and marketing.
Which is why you and I are never going to get to play Dead Rush, the GTA-meets-zombies title that Treyarch was developing for a while before it got cancelled. Or any of the other many titles you've heard of recently that sound interesting but aren't going to ship for one reason or the other. Which is sad.
But I have to admit, tight / aggressive seems like sound business.
Because breakout, out-of-nowhere hits like GTA and The Sims are incredibly rare. Out of the dozens of cool new ideas that are developed each year, the bulk of them aren't profitable and only zero, one, or two of them might be the kind of stellar breakthrough that covers the losses of the rest of your company's failures.
Here's a question. Maybe a team or studio is currently developing a wacky idea, that will be The Sims of 2008, if its funded and marketed to completion. And maybe a publisher is thinking about pulling the plug on it. You hear those rumors that The Sims was almost cancelled however many times. Would that idea be lost forever? Or...if the idea really is that great, won't it be able to survive in some form to eventually become the breakout hit it's destined to be?
I think the suckiest thing about risk-adverse publishers isn't that we won't get those breakout hits every n years. The suckiest thing is that the not-quite-breakout ideas are lost. The Dead Rushes of the world. Because Dead Rush was a game I wanted to play. I probably would have enjoyed it more than GTA. But it wasn't going to be a GTA, not in terms of sales.