Blizzard’s corporate culture is becoming much more cost-focused with stronger Activision influence

    
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Going under.

Let’s start with the good news here. According to the most recent article covering Blizzard’s ongoing corporate culture shifts on Kotaku, the studio’s shifts will all but certainly include making more games more often. That’s a good thing if you were worried that the studio’s game-making departments were getting cut. No, it turns out it’s just everything else being cut down, with the company quietly expanding its buyout program to cover more departments and rumors of layoffs in 2019.

Yes, it turns out the Cork buyouts were a particular tip to the iceberg, not the whole story.

Several former employees have stated that the corporate culture surrounding the studio’s titles has been steadily shifting, right down to the element of releasing more titles more often. The gutting of Heroes of the Storm‘s e-sports division is just part of the overall restructuring, which is taking money and support away from most of the things in the studio not directly related to making more games. It remains to be seen what impact this will have on the studio’s titles moving forward, but expect to see the changes of this year presage 2019 rather than being isolated blips.

Source: Kotaku; thanks to Serrenity for the tip!
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Jack Kerras

Anyone who regards this as a shift in corporate culture and not a degradation of company culture is objectively incorrect.

‘oh they just spent whatever they wanted and got nothing out of it’ yeah, okay, except their games have historically come out on a looong schedule and cost a ton for many years with essentially no return, only to come out and be monstrous critical successes. Their ratings are basically unmatched.

The way to work with them, from a corporate standpoint that does not wish to end an investment, is to leave them the fuck alone, but the fucking profit-mongers can’t do it or they’ll dry up like sidewalk-worms, apparently.

It’s an abject fucking misery, and they do basically nothing but screw up good things and damage that which is whole and hale. Nothing survives untrammeled corporate-grade profit drive. Nothing.

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Roger Melly

Well the quality of Blizzard games has been going downhill over recent years , I imagine this means that the trend will continue but at a faster pace .

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kieranbunny

It’s been a problem for a while now. The focus on short-term profits over long-term customer retention and loyalty. Blizzard is just the latest and high profile victim.Blizzard of course fell victim to that quite awhile ago,ignoring their playerbase and doing what they wanted and now it is coming home to roost with a vengeance.Activision is just putting the final nails into the coffin That Blizzard has become.Me haven’t played WoW in ages..me rl friends have only recently dragged me into the new expansion..but to be honest, me would rather play PoE or Project Gorgon and yes even shroud of the Avatar rather than WoW.Me love the Larian studios games..and am playing them a chunk..People wondered why when e built a new puer recently me put in a dvd drive..welp cause me can haunt thrift stores and our local used game and software/comic book store..just recently picked up Diablo 2 in its original box and happily installed it! Sits right there wif Baldur’s gate and Neverwinter 1 +2 plus number of other classic games..is fun.Been playin puter games for a while now..since the old mud days(anybody remember Ncomm?) loved UO but now…me try some of the mmo’s that come out..beta test em if me can(however me will NOT pay for the privilege) but so far..nothin has piqued me interest..ceptin maybe A:IR..*sigh* only time will tell specially if we as gamers don’t buy their crap games.Since the only thing they seem to understand is money..perhaps if they lose their shirts maybe some indie studio or some studio like Larian or GGG can find enuff traction to attract and KEEP players for the long term..make good profits and not short change their “bread and butter”(we the players) and maybe just maybe..we will get games we will love to play.
Me don’t hold out much hope(hence da stash of great single player games) but
me will hope neverdaless! Just me 2 carrots worth!
==(:*D

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Bruno Brito

We have a smart bunny on MOP <3

I liek bunnies :c

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John Kiser

Ultimately this is a problem with a large part of the industry and has been for awhile now. When the “suits” took over and we largely got publishers controlling developers this started a tend. Bobby Kotick is quite terrible as far as his ideals (he’s been quoted as saying he will never make a game he cannot make a franchise out of).

It is the smaller devs that often self publish even if they go to bigger publishers for some distribution deals in certain areas.

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Bannex

Perhaps blizzard will stop making games themselves and just outsource the IPs.

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Bývörðæįr mòr Vas´Ðrakken

Actually blizzard got to this point back in 2011 when they were trying to figure out how to hang on to the developers that understood appeal and design but most of their experience was in stop motion. Which is how the first diablo game was built.

blizzard needs a couple games that create what is referred to as brand recognition that do not cost fifteen bucks a month to play. all this means is that they need enough games people can play when their gaming budget covers two mmo and neither is wow. blizzards cartoony style is appealing, but the problem is when players go from playing something like fallout or another game where the player is always in the fore ground of the image and the enemies are in the mid ground unless you are getting swarmed while wow your character is in the mid ground unless in a cut scene where they might not even be in the scene, and the npc wandering around are in the mid ground and might be taller so they can be found if a group of players stand around them.

I like wow but when I login I see a painting with everything in the mid ground to the back ground like it is a clean plate waiting for the hero elements to be layered in the foreground over the image. The story is fun, adventuring is fun, what blizzard is facing is that their art team that want everything to be sprite based isometric are not willing to accept that people want more immersion and more their character to be telling the story not just along for someone elseʻs story.

The writers are good enough the leadership sees the challenges but some one is dragging their feet and no one wants to admit who it is. If you open the catalyst book that came with the collectors edition you can see why I know the issues. The hard ware and the engine have come a long way, over watch and wow use the same engine.

The silly feel of the cartoony nature of wow is what made it possible to relax and not care if you messed up the dungeon run the first time. When people start getting frustrated and someone equips a silly looking weapon that functions as functional weapon people go back to accepting that the content is just tuned a wee bit to hard for most players.

Activision and Blizzard were trying to fight off a hostile take over by a french company vindini. They likely still are. The founders had money but not enough for the hardware and got into really bad legal battle over who owned the company years ago. Judge Richard Russel was one of the initial backers of the project. He is a nice guy and was a municipal judge were I grew up. California offered a tax credit and new jersey did not so blizzard was started in California.

What they need is to give the new CEO at least six months to try and figure out how to turn around the costs that as a corporation they can not support, it may take picking two new projects as the MMO to replace wow in two to five years, or to run in parralel. The server costs means that to pay for the upgrades in hardware and running the data centers they have to stay up or build games like over watch to keep the lights on when they can not keep enough players paying a sub. Over watch has a benefit of being able to run on the data center so that even if their is lag in the servers use for wow the cost of running the data center can be paid for with cosmetic items and what ever players are willing to consider not pay to win. Bungie pays blizzard to run their servers for them since the uptime on blizzards servers are better than everything but the stock exchange. that helps keep the data center in money for electric and upgrades.

One of the things that I discussed with Jeff Kaplin was how to get 3D artists for games like wow when most of the artists background is in traditional art. I grinned and said we had the hard part then. I said all we need to do is slowly rotate the artists with traditional art back ground through colleges and art schools to learn how to use the new tools as tools are tools. The ability to figure out what is appealing is what is necessary to create great looking art.

When I log into wow I can see far off into the distance the high end assets look amazing until you realize that none of the characters draw your eye. The only thing I can think of it that the environment team needs to shift their pallet of what looks like the same eight colors one step darker. More or less saturated does not help if you look at the troll capital city it is bright colors that are saturated into ten bit color but they are the same colors that all the gear uses. To make the characters appear to be in the fore ground they need to stand out from the ground they are standing on. Titan ran into the same problems it was bland canvas no matter how cool they made the players look the players and npc blend into a scene. So likely blizzard needs to figure out how to re do all the lighting across the entire wow assets and replace the sky boxes with dynamic lighting that does not wash everything in pastel tone. In over watch you move too fast and have too few characters to notice but rpg need persistent characters where you can change the look without impacting your play style.

The most dramatic effect is caused by flying over storm wind and seeing the hero assets next to boring house, flying from the dock tells you there are enough houses to make it feel like a city but when you look at them they are boring walls not some thing to interact with. I hope the new ceo remembers that even in the rts scrolling over the houses had info on them. what blizzard needs is a cheaper wow with more intractable content and a new mmo even if in development that promises either more cartoony fun or seriousness but something that feels like cosplaying heroes in a videogame. Over watch proved it worked because people had fun playing it. Wow is only meh looking right now because your character will always look worse than the npcs and every time players think their character is not even a special snowflake but the disposable razor blade that does all the work then the npc steps in and takes all the credit. Having content be repeatable and having players able to beat it when it is six months old requires npc that can pick up the slack but there has got to be better balance. So I would say blizzard activison know what the issues are but they need time to try to figure out what to keep what make orcs vs humans and lost viking fun and be able to still look good after playing athema fallout 76 or even destiny 2.

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Tithian

This would be the case even without Activision’s influence, they simply gave them a slight nudge to get the ball rolling faster.

It’s a natural occurrence when a company forms a monopoly. There comes a point, when you can hardly iterate on a product that dominates the market already, so to widen your audience eventually the focus shifts into marketing and sales. And after a few years of Sales Execs bringing in the dough, the corporate culture shifts away from ‘Product Development’, the salesmen get promotions, and the way the company is ran changes.

You can really see this with WoW; they reached their peak in Wrath and frankly no real new systems got introduced to the game after that for years, which started a downward spiral. Legion introduced the Artifact system that got people hooked again, and then BfA rehashed it and the audience was lost. And every time the devs talk, they don’t mention ‘fun game mechanics’ or anything of the sort, but rather talk about ‘player engagement’ and other marketing bollocks.

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styopa

Agreed.
More simply, a company that has seen an avalanche of income usually struggles when that torrent of cash even slightly decreases.

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Bruno Brito

Blizzard’s devs really have a hard-on to introducing mechanics then scratching it next xpac, instead of improving on them. It’s really idiotic.

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rosieposie

This is how the 3xA industry kills itself. So many of their franchises get annual releases that barely differ from each other, leading to complete over-saturation of the market, which means that they themselves create the situation in which their game releases can never meet (investor) expectations. Even if they make over half a billion in sales. Because they’re not showing the mystical ‘growth’ with every release.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Blizzard, known for its glacial pace, is going to be putting out more games! Yeah!

So what’ll that mean? One game every 4 years instead of every 6?

I can hardly wait.

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Bruno Brito

And somehow they’ll be able to lose 50% of their quality just by shaving off those 2 years.

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Dave

The important thing (to me) to remember is that if this is truly the direction Blizzard is going, then I’d expect to see the Blizzard talent leave and go elsewhere (or start new companies).

The three most successful and popular examples of this are ArenaNet, Runic Games, and Trion Worlds. The founders of Runic have gone on to start another company as well (though they are still working on Torchlight)

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Armsbend

I’d argue most of the talent has left.

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Utakata

Where the make games to make money common denominator may end up biting them in the ass…

…also see: Mr. Schlag ‘s animated gif for details below. /le sigh