You that best friend you had in middle school and high school who you never talk to anymore? They just kept changing more and more each year, retaining fewer and fewer qualities you appreciate? Then, after many years and periodic unsuccessful attempts to rekindle the camaraderie, you both just gave up and went your separate ways?
That is me and Blizzard Entertainment.
Blizzard Entertainment is a game development company founded in 1991. In 1994, with their release of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, they firmly established themselves as an industry giant. The giants became titans as they followed Warcraft with a succession of Game of the Year winners in Warcraft II: The Tides of Darkness, Diablo, Starcraft, Diablo II, and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. The six games listed in this paragraph and almost unanimously agreed upon as some of the best games ever made, with Starcraft actually receiving Gamespot’s nod for Best Game of All Time.
Those six games made Blizzard the most influential PC game studio in the world and by far the most awarded one. It did so by creating games that we as technical as they were engrossing. They had plenty of casual-gaming fans, but their bread and butter market was the competitive gaming community. If you were the best Starcraft player in the world, you were the best gamer in the world. Period. Their games were the benchmarks for gaming skill, and it brought them to the top.
Then World of Warcraft happened. Another game of the year winner, another critical and fan success, and an insane amount of money that absolutely ruined the company. Let me break it down for you.
As I mentioned, Blizzard made its name and its fortune with competitive games. With the success of WoW, an enormous new player pool was drawn to the casual, slow paced, cartoony wonderland or character development and socialization. A player pool that has grossed the game $8.45 billion since it came out, easily making it the highest grossing PC game of all time. Those numbers were too big for Blizzard to ignore.
So upon its release and subsequent success in 2004, Blizzard changed their business model. They realized that they could make WAY more money making games that rewarded far more casual players. The next two major releases they made, they INSANELY anticipated Starcraft II and Diablo III, were both tremendous failures. Don’t get me wrong, they both made a grip of money for the company, but the games’ players bases dwindled after their releases at rates the company had not seen before.
The reason is that they tried to make games that EVERYONE would love instead of staying true to their original method of making games that gamers would love.
They are still making games that make money like Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch, but none have ever resonated with the gaming community like their old releases. Ironically, the most popular and highest prize competitive game in the world right now is essentially a community mod of their game Warcraft III. An entire genre called MOBAs sprang into existence and still clings to the brilliance of their earlier games.
In case I sound whiny, I’m not the only one who recognizes this: