Blizzard’s Mike Morhaime will leave planned advisory role in April

    
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Back in October, Blizzard announced that Mike Morhaime was stepping down as president of the company after 27 years working there. While World of Warcraft Executive Producer J. Allen Brack took over, Morhaime was intended to stay on with the studio as a “strategic advisor,” but there was still a lot of sadness and confusion at BlizzCon when Morhaime gave his final address from the stage.

But now it appears Morhaime won’t be sticking around much longer even in that abbreviated capacity. According to an SEC filing released to investors this week, Morhaime will be departing that role in April.

“As previously disclosed, on October 3, 2018 Michael Morhaime entered into an agreement with Activision Blizzard, Inc. (the ‘Company’) pursuant to which he would provide strategic advice to the Company in an advisory capacity. Mr. Morhaime’s employment with the Company as a strategic advisor will conclude on April 7, 2019.”

The news comes the same week that Activision Blizzard announced new presidents for its three core divisions: Rob Kostich, former Call of Duty franchise boss, for Activision; Humam Sakhnini, former CFO for ActiBlizz, for King Digital; and Dennis Durkin, also a former CFO, for Emerging Businesses, which is apparently ActiBlizz’s new division for products and esports. Brack will remain as Blizzard’s president.

Source: Activision, GIbiz
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Leiloni

As far as I know this was always the agreement. I’m not sure why people are making drama out of this. It’s not like he was kicked out or left early.

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Armsbend

I think the drama – is that there seems to be so very much drama at the company at this moment. Everything is happening very quickly.

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Dug From The Earth

Of course his time as an advisory role was cut short.

Had he been allowed to stay longer, his shares in the company would have meant them having to give him a much larger cut for this year.

This is Activision, taking every step to cut costs. No limits.

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Ironwu

Strategic Advice? Like “Let’s pay 7 billion dollars for King mobile!”? Or, “Hey, lets strip out the fun parts of Legion, add a bunch of grind, focus on PvP in WoW!? Or, “Hey, you know what customers want? A Diablo Mobile game! Oh, and that 7 billion dollar mobile game company we just purchased won’t make it!”?

Yeah. Departure long overdue, I think.

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Rodney Perry

Actually really enjoying the pvp focus. War mode has given me the world pvp I’ve been looking for for years.

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Oscar Morejon

Multiple CFO’s getting placed reminds me of this…

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Armsbend

What an absolutely brilliant interview. Absolute irony that the exact same thing is happening to his company Apple right at this second.

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Bruno Brito

Vultures don’t care for funeral rites.

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McGuffn

Sometimes the vultures are the funeral rites.

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Bryan Correll

The exact thing was happening at Apple at the time he gave this interview. It was made a couple years before Jobs returned to the company and it was absolutely in the toilet at the time.

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Armsbend

Yeah I remember the eulogies on Apple being no more. Their pipeline became trash the day he died.

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Tithian

That’s exactly what crossed my mind too.

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Arktouros

I’ve always liked this clip but I don’t think it’s relevant. Jobs there is talking about squandering innovation by hyper focusing on selling one product that you don’t really innovate on (IE: Pepsi or copiers).

For a lot of game development studios the people being put in charge aren’t sales people but they’re maximum profit people. They’re all about innovating/iterating new products but delivering more products at lower quality to min-max profitability on those more products. Instead of taking an extra year to give it the old Blizzard polish and shine just ship that fucker out and start getting the money rolling in.

I mean we all hate Electronic Arts for a variety of reasons but they made 5 billion last year. It works really well despite all the hate, criticism and anger towards companies going this direction.

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ilikain

I highly disagree with pretty much everything you said there.. The piece was perfect applicable. You can’t both min-max profits and innovate, everything comes at a cost, and innovation is never a safe bet. You can’t min-max on taking a chance, which is exactly what innovating is. CFOs are focused on the bottom line
and returns for their investors, which is why they tend to be bad choice for running a creative endeavor.
I work for a large corporation and we are running through this now as well, a focus on “money, money, money” doesn’t push innovation, it pushes profits. People hate EA for many many (many) reasons, but honestly I wouldn’t care how much they made if they didn’t do it on the backs of developers/questionable business practices, etc.

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Arktouros

Being innovative/iterative (I said both) means you don’t need to innovate the whole thing out of thin air like you’re implying. The whole thing doesn’t have to be a risk by trying new things in working game models.

Min-maxing means stop burning money trying to make something into a thing. How many millions has Blizzard thrown at Overwatch and eSports? How long did they keep developing HOTS long past it being realistic to see a good return for that development time?

You can also min-max profit in reducing wasted development time. Where before they may have gotten 2-3 years into development and said “This game isn’t fun, we should cancel it” a company can instead just push forward with it instead. It’s a Blizzard Game, add in some cross game promotions and people will at least give it a try in most cases. Well, at least, until they burn through their reputation as a company and people see them as on par with Electronic Arts of course.

To my original point, the people in charge of Acti-Blizz are about profits now. “Money, money, money” is music to their ears. They’re not salesmen looking for 20 different new ways to sell World of Warcraft subscriptions while ignoring any other game development (the kind of scenario Jobs in this video is describing with Xerox).

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Oscar Morejon

“Jobs there is talking about squandering innovation by hyper focusing on selling one product that you don’t really innovate on”

Isnt that whats happening right now? WoW went the way of the sub based rng loot treadmill, HOTS isnt profitable so they are cutting production, Diablo isnt expanding but instead is going mobile, and OW as good as it is a really barebones shooter.

All of those things are safe bets that will make money for investors, but are not anything new. WoW is destiny with a sub, and OW is CoD.

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Arktouros

Isnt that whats happening right now?

No.

As Blizzard has said they are developing a lot of new projects currently. Diablo Immortal is an example of one of those projects but as they also said (more or less) they’re also developing Diablo 4 as well as many other projects as well such as more mobile titles. These are all projects that will turn around development costs as returns quicker for them as a company. A lot of this stuff all came out during the intense scrutiny of Blizzard during the Immortal reveal.

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ilikain

I’ve never seen this, thank you for sharing. That was perfect.

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Baemir

Very schumpeterian.

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jay

Is it wrong that the way I read between the lines here, is that they refused to listen to any of his advice, so he’s just stepping down completely? Similar to trump and all of his Cabinet/advisers/etc

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Yes, but probably this actually occurred last year when he “stepped down”. They didn’t want to fire him outright, so they gave him a six-month save-embarrassment deal so it wouldn’t look bad just before BlizzCon. And a lot of money with it, I would presume. April is when a six-month deal is up.

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IronSalamander8 .

I’ve never been a huge Blizzard fan but they certainly had some good stuff over the years. This is a bad sign on top of other bad signs.

It’s depressing to see how bad EA and Activision are these days back in the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 days they were fantastic companies that brought us River Raid, Laser Blast, Mail-Order Monsters and of course this gem (that recently got a board game based on it!):

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Armsbend

Could Lucas have sued them over stealing the AT-ST?

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Arcanum Zero

That’s an AT-AT, Armsbend. AT-STs were the two-legged walkers.

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Armsbend

I looked it up too (wrongly I suppose)! I am not a star wars person as you can tell!

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Arktouros

Shame.

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Schmidt.Capela

This thing? I don’t think so.

Mule_box.jpg
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IronSalamander8 .

:D

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Armsbend

good heavens that is some crazy bad box art. Belongs in a museum!

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Armsman

It was a VERY ENJOYABLE game back in the day when you had all 4 players sitting on the couch.

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McGuffn

This thing would have made the Hoth battle so much better.

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Nathan Aldana

thats how businesses work, basically. They always end up victims of their own success and become bloated entities that care nothing but profits, shedding whatever ideals they may have once had

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IronSalamander8 .

Yeah it’s true. Depressing but true. If I remember correctly Activision was originally founded by programmers annoyed with Atari corporate back then and made the company to produce Atari 2600 cartridges and then later stuff for other systems like my Colecovision and Commodore 64.

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Bruno Brito

On a bright side, it makes them burning down into the ground a way less painful experience.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

I hope he starts his own thing. I stay away from Blizz stuff because it’s owned by Activision and the stuff they did the the COD creators was awful so I don’t support them financially.

He’s one of the brightest minds the industry has ever seen so I hope he does something new. If not, I hope he enjoys retirement being rich and fat and happy the rest of his days.

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Armsbend

I’d like for him to step back from the industry – let it burn for a few years – and then come back with a vengeance – full of ideas and a fresh insight for take after a year or two off unwinding. That’s what I hope for any successful developer provided they don’t come back in just for the money (Roberts, Garriot, Molyneux). Art, storycrafting first and the boats full of money come to you naturally – well deserved every single penny.

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Bruno Brito

I’ll pay anything he makes as long as it doesn’t lock me out of using skills while equipping a thrown weapon. Who the hell was that idea?

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Bannex

I could really go for a small, well managed developer to create a fun original IP based open world game right about now.

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Tanek

This “advisory role” sounds a bit like what happened when I was laid off work. “Hey, train this person to do your job so we can get rid of you, ok? Thanks.”

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Armsbend

That isn’t what it is – he is too big for that – and frankly wouldn’t care because I assume he is very rich and probably ready to get out of this and spend it for a few years. Advisory roles on acquired companies are set up for one reason – to allow the new guard to take over without a mass, quick succession exodus of top tier talent. The advisory role ALWAYS tells the old guard, “everything is fine. This is going to be good. I am happy.” They do their year, two years tops and then they GTFO after collecting money doing jack all for that time. Once the advisory is gone – the tentacles have infected the company. The old guard can or has been replaced and enough voices have been silenced that the new folks can turn the company in any direction they desire.

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Chris Neal

The fact that CFOs are taking top seats at Blizzard pretty much tells me all I need to know, or at the very least certainly feeds into some concerns.

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Armsbend

100%.

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Bannex

Are you talking about the 2 cfos they lost within the week from each other? ;)

Blizz is going through some tough times atm. I dislike the sinking ship analogy because they implies that it can’t come back but it certainly seems like pc gaming’s most coveted developer is changing for the worse.

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Armsbend

Chris is talking about these new presidents – they all came from top level financial backgrounds – not creative backgrounds.

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Bannex

I know. It was more my effort to slather on more crappy frosting on this shit cake.

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Armsbend

How did I not see past your clear winky smile face!

Damn me!

*<8-)

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Utakata

Wait, you mean bean counting doesn’t always result in compelling, quality and creative products for it’s consumers? o.O