Blizzard sources dish on Warcraft Go, Diablo IV, Diablo Immortal, China, and Activision’s culture shift

    
91
THIS IS ALL YOU GET

Kotaku has a wild article up today ahead of the holiday with input from nearly a dozen anonymous current and former Blizzard employees spilling tea on Diablo, Warcraft, Titan, and… well, if you can imagine it, they’re talking about it. Here’s the executive summary:

On Diablo III: Sources say Blizzard canceled a second expansion for Diablo III, unenthused about the game, even though Reaper of Souls had been a critical success. “At the point they had the strongest Diablo development team ever, they scattered them all to the winds,” says one source.

On Diablo IV: The remaining Diablo team began work on a Diablo IV-ish game dubbed “Hades” with a hardcore Dark Souls-esque bent. That was also canceled and its team built Rise of the Necromancer for Diablo III instead and then “Fenris,” the current codename for Diablo IV, which as rumored is indeed in production and has been since 2016, though it’s changed up things like camera mode over development. Fenris is apparently intended to be more social as well as more dark and gothic than Diablo III.

On Titan: Multiple developers say that “Blizzard is haunted by the specter of Titan” – that is, the pricey, multi-year MMORPG Blizzard was building and scrapped to make Overwatch instead, resulting in a bit of a “back eye” for the studio. Consequently, fear about revealing games too early plagues the company leadership.

On Diablo Immortal: Yes, it’s being developed by a different team from the D4 team, chiefly because “China really wants it.” According to the sources, it was at one point planned to release in China first as a test because “the quality bar in the Chinese market, especially for framerate, is extremely low” – then it would be polished up for the rest of the world. Blizzard didn’t exactly contradict this.

On Warcraft Go: One of Blizzard’s incubator projects is apparently a “Warcraft version of Pokémon Go,” currently in development, though reportedly it has more meat to it than Niantic’s POGO. “These mobile games might not appeal to as many of Blizzard’s hardcore fans – those who prefer to play games mainly on PCs – but they have appealed very much to the developers,” Kotaku notes. We really hope it’s not called WoW Go or Warcraft Go. We’re just being cheeky. We’ll also probably play it.

On Activision: Finally, a large chunk of the article is devoted to the sources’ perception that Activision has an outsized influence on modern Blizzard’s finances and culture, such that cost-cutting is now a core goal. This is apparently a big change for developers used to Mike Morhaime’s “anti-CEO,” make-good-games-and-don’t-worry-about-profits personality. Here’s one of Kotaku’s sources to lead us out:

“You would’ve thought Blizzard was going under and we had no money. […] The way every little thing was being scrutinized from a spend perspective. That’s obviously not the case. But this was the very first time I ever heard, ‘We need to show growth.’ That was just so incredibly disheartening for me.”

Well that was a lot more interesting than anything at the actual BlizzCon.

Source: Kotaku

91
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Schlag Sweetleaf
Reader
Bannex

*shudder*

Reader
McGuffn

I’m just wild about macrotransactions

Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Schlag Sweetleaf

That’s 2 winners for you, McGuffn :)

Reader
Ironwu

And when anyone other than Bliz/Act employees come to see the singing and dancing murloc?

Ribbit.

Reader
Dankey Kang

The only reason I would play pokémon go is to catch Pokemon, take that away and it’s a glorified pedometer.

WoWGo will flop.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
CasualSlacks

I think you misspelled “succeed in such a way that Blizzard doesn’t make a new PC game for 5 years.”

Reader
Anthony Clark

The Blizzard of old is dead. R.I.P. Activision has killed it.

Once I read they killed the profit sharing program with the underpaid employees I knew that things were going downhill even worse than I had thought.

The last WoW expansion, the pricing on Classic WoW servers, WoW Pokemon GO, a mobile Diablo announcement at Blizzcon, the news just isn’t getting better at all.

Sell your stock now people while you can still get something out of it!

Reader
J

I feel like Blizzard is on its way to being the next Bioware.

Hamblepants
Reader
Hamblepants

Finance-dumb here, help me out.

Why is hearing “we need to show growth” from higher-ups a bad thing for devs to hear?

Reader
Frank White

Basically because it means they’ve gone full-on corporate: increasing quarterly profits (every quarter) for shareholders trumps all other concerns and dictates most business decisions. So a so-so mobile game that might make them hundreds of millions of dollars, as opposed to a quality PC game that might make only tens of millions: check

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

It’s more than that. When that mindset grips the company, short-term actions that will bring immediate, if limited, growth tend to win over long-term investments that could bring large growth but would require more maturation time.

In other words, Blizzard’s old way of running the company — work on a few titles, take as much time as needed to assure they are as good as possible, and even cancel titles that can’t meet the company’s quality standards — isn’t compatible with “we need to show growth”.

Ernost
Reader
Ernost

Also, this mindset almost always results in the addition of heavily pay to win monetization models designed to milk whales and screw over everyone else.

Reader
Kevin McCaughey

I’ll give you an example. The university my Dad taught at, they received a report saying they could save £12k annually on heating their main swimming pool by making a a structural change in the building. This change would have cost £25k to make and they declined to do it because it was “too expensive”. This is the sort of thing that happens in all organisations and they usually have management running mad as well.

Veldara
Reader
Veldara

What this tells me is that there is a bigger gap between players and the people working in Blizzard than initially thought. The people working there now leaves me with the impression that they are not as in tuned with the pc audience as they once was.

With the culture seemingly more focused on smaller and mobile projects, I likely don’t see myself being as interested in any products besides their tentpole IPs moving forward. Even then I find myself skittish now because who knows what the monetization will look like for them in the future.

Madtexican
Reader
Madtexican

I have one question about WoWGo. Will I have to bring 39 of my closest friends to capture Hogger?

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Paragon Lost

Just one more stone tossed onto the cairn that used to be Blizzard as Activision Blizzard transitions into becoming more like EA type of entity.

Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Suikoden

I see this sort of scenario all the time in my job, and I see it across multiple industries. So many times I’ve seen a small business create immense value for themselves by focusing on the customer. Then they get a too-good-to-be-true offer to sell to corporate investors. Once in corporate hands they turn the thriving business into a cost-cutting profit and growth center, and they end up closing the doors right before they go under. Because the thing they ALWAYS forget about is that they are still reliant on people. And people that have no passion for what they do either leave the company or don’t produce the same magic. It amazes me they don’t teach this to all these MBAs and accountants coming out of school, because it’s an extremely common sight to see.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

IMHO, the big issue here is that the kind of personality that is required to truly care about the customer isn’t the same that is required to be an effective manager capable of making hard decisions, decisions that might sacrifice the happiness of customers, and even the livelihood of employees, at the altar of profit. This creates a situation where smaller companies that grew by cultivating the love and loyalty of their customers/fans are usually incompatible with the kind of management that the big, faceless, filthy rich companies that tend to acquire them use; worse yet, the managers at the big, faceless company often can’t even perceive that their highly technical way of managing business, which brings reams of cash for their employers, might be actually detrimental to a smaller company that grew as a labor of love.

Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Suikoden

Well put. I admit that an effective CFO can increase profitability and asset-based growth for the company, but you need a balance between that and an understanding of your customer, to be successful long term. Thus it would take a progressive type of bean-counter to decide to step back and manage the finance side of the company while leaving the direction and leadership to someone less numbers driven and more customer focused.

Reader
Nathan Aldana

thats the thing though, success as a businessman is measured in value added to shareholder’s bank accounts and nothing else.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

Building goodwill among the user base is quite valuable, actually, as it can be a strong driver for future revenues; just look at Apple. Or old Blizzard, for what matters.

Its value is almost impossible to quantify, though, making management wary of investing in it.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Ashfyn Ninegold

Right on the money. Investment banking destroys just about everything it touches, a leech that sucks the life out of a company, saddles it with massive debt and then walks away under bankruptcy protection.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Dobablo

If a new finance head comes in from outside the company and doesn’t immediately review spending then they aren’t doing their job. CFO is more than just making sure the treasury function has the right levels of cash to pay the bills.
Ask your stupid questions when you start. It’s called learning and you won’t get a chance later. Most importantly your stupid question might turn out to be not so stupid and something that no one was asking, therefore resulting in real, positive change.

Reader
Nathan Aldana

thats fair, sure, but at the same time, theres a reason why “outside financiers coming in ajnd asking questions” is a trope that usually ends in ‘the compoany stops being recognizable as what it once was due to massive shifts in what the company values”

Reader
thirtymil

If you mean ‘review spending’ as in ‘ask a load of questions so you understand why a company operates the way it does’ then sure. But for most companies ‘review’ means ‘cut’ and it’s often done after some superficial questions without a deep look at the ‘non-tangible’ impact (i.e. employee morale).

Reader
Nathan Aldana

this. their questions are usually less “where can we trim some unneeded costs” and more “how hard can we push a small core of overworked and underpaid employees before they break under the strain?”

Reader
Christopher Angeles

The quest to make more money is killing video games, tell me something I don’t know.

I just want a Diablo II remake and get back to where the Diablo franchise was actually good.