Normally in Versus I take a look at two different games within a similar genre or two major concepts in MMOs. This week, however, is going to be a bit different as we look into two different sides of a very important company for MMOs. Is Blizzard Entertainment too cocky for its own good or is it just confident in its products? This idea came about during a conversation with a coworker regarding Heroes of the Storm’s official launch. The game was given a release date, a huge amount of hype and even an extravagant launch party, but no official launch time was released.
Most people assumed that Heroes of the Storm would go live around 11 a.m. PDT after the usual Tuesday downtime, but as player began to login it was evident that no patch had been deployed. A message from Blizzard’s Twitter account stated that the game would go live sometime in the afternoon. The fact that there was an official party to celebrate the launch of the game, but no official release time was provided completely blows my mind. This isn’t some indie title with small following either, but instead another popular game created by a mammoth studio.
This led me to two possible conclusions. The first being that Blizzard is so cocky that they believe they can treat potential customers any way they want and people will still buy their product. The second option is that they are completely confident that they are providing a quality product and small setbacks or inconveniences won’t hurt relationships with hardcore fans. These two might see similar but the delivery is completely different. On one side, the company is disregarding customers simply because it’s convenient for them, and on the other they’re trying to make sure the product is the best it can be, with time allotted, for release. Now many people already have a set opinion about most major game studios, but let’s take a look at how Blizzard does business.
BEST IN SHOW
If Blizzard does one thing right, it’s produce high-quality games. That’s not saying it produces amazing original content that pleases every potential gamer, but their games always come with a very solid amount of polish. This even includes games, and expansions, with a rocky launch, such as Diablo III and Warlords of Draenor, because every time a major game launches, everyone thinks it’s the worst release ever. It’s been clear for a long time that most Blizzard games are based around old concepts. World of Warcraft is heavily inspired from EverQuest, Heroes of the Storm was modeled after a player-made mod from Warcraft III, Overwatch has deep roots from Team Fortress 2 and StarCraft is a more streamlined version of Command & Conquer. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this either because game developers have been building on each other’s ideas for decades, but Blizzard seems to get an excessive amount of flak for it.
It’s not just the games being well-made that created Blizzard’s success. I believe that each game was planned according to audience, timing, and convenience, and then pushed through with proper advertising. When World of Warcraft first came out, home Internet was finally becoming capable of decent speed while 3D graphics and optimization were seeing amazing progress. EverQuest might have been first, but World of Warcraft was deployed with strategy and at a time when more people could access the game at an enjoyable level. In recent years mobile card games have been all the rage, but they’re almost always unfair and usually resort to pay-to-win tactics. Blizzard clearly saw an opening and released the most polished mobile card game still currently available. Furthermore, they’ve made the game in a relatively fair and balanced fashion that minimizes the gap between free players and spenders when compared to many other mobile games. Proper marketing isn’t about making a perfect game, but knowing when to release a polished game in a relatively unknown market, and that is something Blizzard has excelled at.
LACK OF COMMUNICATION
While it’s difficult to deny, but not entirely impossible, that Blizzard makes great games, it does have a notoriously bad reputation when it comes to communication with its communities. When Diablo III was released there was an outcry over both the gold shop and legendary itemization. Many players thought the auction house, specifically the gold auction house, cheapened their experience and minimized interaction with fellow players. Moreover, the way stats were rolled onto items made magic and rare items more usable than the coveted legendary items that were supposed to make the game exciting. The reaction from Blizzard was to simply wait and see what happened. Every now and then a moderator on the forums would comment about how they were talking about system revisions, but it took nearly until the release of the Reaper of Souls expansion before most of the problems were fixed.
The same is definitely true when it comes to Heroes of the Storm. Information is released very sparingly and mostly just includes hype about the game instead of concrete upcoming patch information. New heroes are teased about and then no more information is given until they randomly appear after a patch. Even game-breaking bugs, such as Li Li’s cloud serpent heal, took days to fix. As a member of the community, the biggest issues aren’t the problems that arise in the game but instead Blizzard’s lack of communication about them. Let us know you’re aware of the problem and are working on it. Give us estimated launch dates for new heroes/content instead of saying the time between them will decrease and then give us one hero over two months. The staple of every good relationship is communication.
I believe that Blizzard has created a monster and it can’t control it. They have one of the largest fan bases in the world and that makes it susceptible to the worst possible scrutiny of the online gaming world. World of Warcraft is the biggest MMORPG of the last decade and will continue to be the biggest for quite some time. All of their other games are also vastly popular and some are the top of their genre including StarCraft II and Hearthstone. This leads me to think that Blizzard is afraid of being wrong and this is why more often than not that they say nothing at all.
The backlash from saying a patch will be implemented in 2 hours and it actually takes 5 would be insane. That’s why its policy has been that things will be done when they’re done. Blizzard has to be confident in every action that it takes and word that it says or there will be 10 million angry fans and thousands of websites calling them out. Blizzard has to be confident in every decision it makes and in the games it produces; therefore answers are either silence or assuredness. Blizzard is confident and maybe sometimes that leads to them being cocky, but it’s not afforded the opportunity to fail or the entire world hears about it.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, Diablo 3, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Starcraft 2, Versus, World of Warcraft