If you follow gaming news you are probably very aware of the troubles faced by the gaming and eSports giant, Blizzard.
Blizzard is arguably one the largest AAA gaming companies out there, and their select but large titles are some of the most successful in the industry. So how could a company with such a monopoly on the market fall so far in such a short time?
Well, the answer is simple. Small but impactful mistakes that snowball into others.
It all began in October, a mere four months ago. Mike Morhaime, the longstanding CEO of Blizzard, announced that he was stepping down to make room for some fresh blood to take the lead. He was simply going to reshuffle himself into the top tier of the company as an advisor as J Allen Brack took the reigns.
Brack was known as the former leader of WoW so it was a trusted name. Many felt good about the change, especially when letters addressed to the massive fanbase came out assuring that their dedication to quality and community would remain unaffected.
There were also promises of brand-spankin' new games in development. In fact, they said "more than ever before" were in the works. This came right before the heralded Blizzcon. This ignited a new fire in the belly of fans and speculations on what kind of announcements this would bring at their event of the year. It built an unrealistic hype which was the probably one of the first mistakes leading to failure.
Of course, it is good to keep your base interested and abreast of new developments inside the company. But it should only be done if you have things ready to present, especially so close to the sole event of the year for just that purpose.
Instead of instilling trust, Blizzcon happened to do the exact opposite. Diablo Immortal was announced to a room that was so silent it was cringe-inducing.
There are many reasons that this decision was a poor one:
> The PC fanbase that long supported Diablo felt completely and utterly unheard.
> The game itself is basically a clone of a preexisting game, Diablo III. No new characters, a few asset swaps for bosses, very underwhelming.
> Stretching their reach to another platform while not maintaining the PC community came across as a slight.
> How the backlash was handled was poor, coming across as "we hear you, sorry you don't like it, but too bad". Essentially dismissing the entire community with a handwave of "Don't like it then don't buy it". Unsurprisingly this has caused some damage to the bottom line.
> This was basically the only announcement that they had aside from promises of "more" at a later date.
To give you an idea of how poorly this game was received, a fan stood up during the Q&A to ask with all seriousness if this was an early or late April Fools joke.
This is one of the most notable turns that has become the steady decline of a once dedicated following.
Next to go was Blizzard EU support. Now, they didn't fire anyone, however, they changed an early retirement program that Blizzard has had for some time. They expanded it to IT, QA, and other departments and lowered the requirements in order to take the sweet deal of a year's pay in lump sum. This resulted in a drastic downsizing of the office as people left in droves. Keep in mind this one office is the only office for Blizzard support in Europe.
During this time rumours swirled and confirmed statements were made that Blizzard was in need of "reigning in" their spending by the Activision division.
Not long after this, the CFO of the company left for all things, Netflix. It seems that he was fired for negotiating the new job but there remains scepticism that he sought other employment BECAUSE of the changes coming to budgeting and financial restructuring of the company. But the irony wasn't lost on Blizzard since the new CFO is getting somewhere in the realm of tens of millions of dollars in bonuses and perks. But that pesky overspending on titles really needs to be reigned in!
In the midst of all the reshuffling and loss of employees, Heroes of the Storm eSports was completely canned. Which distressed and upset a small but seriously dedicated fanbase. Not long after that, they lost Destiny, one of the larger new titles to fall into their division.
Confidence has since entered a nosedive and the company's stock has followed.
This week hasn't been much better while Activision has announced a refund for those that purchased Guitar Hero as all the music was removed. Going from a catalogue of 484 songs down to an astounding 42. It may be the answer to life, the universe, and everything, but it isn't the answer to a solid business model for those that paid for the game.
It has also been announced that this week Blizzard is looking at hundreds of layoffs within the company while they focus on "maximizing profits".
Even though Starcraft, Hearthstone, and Overwatch competitions are still strong and they are the owners of the one and only WoW, we have seen over the last four months how quickly these things can change.
It seems that we very well may be witnessing the end of an era. Only time can tell.
Stay tuned for more similar content and e-sports!!
Have a fantastic day,