I’m on nearly 4 months since my last Blizzard post (the MSFT buyout), and I’m certainly not missing it! While I’m certainly on record for armchair designing WoW, the business portion is equally fascinating.
We’re at the saturation point of the pandemic, where the large spike of “hermits” has ended. People are going outside and spending less time in front of screens. This is a challenge as the pandemic itself stretched out the pipeline on any development. So there were more consumers eating away at products that were taking longer to generate material. Eventually, something has to give.
Blizzard in particular here has had troubles launching much during this timeframe… and obviously struggling as a company as a result. Between the last results and this one, WoW saw Eternity’s End come about, the announcement for the next expansion Dragonflight, and attempts to drive interest in Diablo Immortal beta in June (simultaneous PC launch, and ~4 years since it was announced).
The financials this quarter were not good. 2m less monthly users. 43% less revenue. And that’s compared to Q4 where nothing launched. Those are painful numbers. In the aggregate, they’ve managed to lose nearly 20% of their userbase this year alone, and about 40% across the last 4 years.
The future isn’t looking so bright either. Overwatch 2 was delayed, and what people have seen so far is very “meh” in terms of being more of an expansion than a sequel (which is a mountain in itself). Diablo 4 is nowhere to be seen (hopefully they are paying attention to what Lost Ark did well). Dragonflight doesn’t have a release date or pre-orders (typically, you can buy it 1yr ahead). I have a lot of fundamental design questions on that expansion…but others are better equipped at that.
Perhaps we’re nearing that turning point where AAA game development is simply no longer sustainable. Where development for the sake of numbers has run the course. Where the indie scene can show that passion and smaller teams can have more success – and that there’s the potential for a sustainable market.