It’s a bit long in the tooth now with BlizzCon well behind us, but the Esports Observer published an interview with Blizzard’s J. Allen Brack this week, and yes it touches on that “tough Hearthstone esports moment” that dominated headlines this fall. But it also covers Brack’s first term at the top of Blizzard, which he characterizes as a “really hard year.”
Notably, he argues that decisions to drastically cut esports staff and tournaments, including the deep slashes to Heroes of the Storm, were necessary because the studio needs to “keep an eye on the core priorities.” Apparently, those core priorities still include a slow-paced release cycle for its new titles, regardless of the market.
“I think the thing that Blizzard has been built on is this idea of not only ‘it’s ready when it’s ready,’ but behind that is the thought that it doesn’t matter if a game is late, it only matters if it’s great. […] I think we’ve seen games that have come out in the last five years that were not great and had large communities or had large followings, and it’s been difficult for those games to recover. You only get one launch and so you’ve got to make it right.”
As for the Blitzchung incident, Brack has seemingly given voice to yet another new argument: that the bans for everyone involved must stay in place because players are “contractually obligated not to use official broadcasts as a place to talk about politics of any kind” (Esports Observer’s wording). Prior to this interview, Blizzard has maintained that the players’ actions were instead a violation of the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters official competition rules, which do not mention politics or political conduct on official streams at all.
While Esports Observer characterizes Blizzard’s position on allowing players to speak out on their own personal streams as “liberal,” it doesn’t seem that the interview addresses the Overwatch coach whose tweets condemning Blizzard’s actions were subsequently removed when said coach was “directed” to remove them.
Brack does conclude the interview by admitting that the whole incident and the way the studio handled it “exposed some immaturity” in the ranks. “No one [at Blizzard] had any idea that this was going to blow up to be the international incident that it has become,” he says.