Robert Kotick

CEO, Activision

Impact: Kotick didn’t have to agree to merge with Vivendi Games and create the world’s biggest videogame company in order to become one of the leading players in the interactive entertainment biz, but it sure helped.

Long regarded as one of the savviest dealmakers in the vidgame biz, everything seemed to come together for Kotick in 2007. His decision to purchase “Guitar Hero” developer RedOctane for $100 million last year paid off almost immediately, as “Guitar Hero 2” shredded the charts throughout the first half of the year and was almost immediately replaced by “Guitar Hero 3,” which sold more than 3 million units in its first month alone.

Activision had such a boffo holiday season that it had to up guidance twice and was on track to be the No. 1 third-party publisher in the U.S., besting Electronic Arts for the first time. Chalk that up in large part to one word that defines Kotick’s approach: franchises. While “Halo 3” and “Grand Theft Auto IV” are three years or more past the previous installments, Activision pumps out a new “Call of Duty,” “Guitar Hero,” and Tony Hawk skateboarding game every year. The company also dips extensively into Hollywood licenses, including “Spider-Man,” DreamWorks Animation titles, James Bond and newest movie franchise “Transformers.” In 2008, Kotick’s company will be rechristened as Activision Blizzard, its name referencing the Vivendi-owned publisher of the mega-successful “World of Warcraft.” It will be majority-owned by Vivendi, with Kotick at the helm.

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POV: “I’ve always had aspirations of getting the company where we are, but now as Activision Blizzard, we have even more opportunities to innovate, to enter new geographies, and to take advantage of new online platforms,” Kotick says.