Blizzard News

My boycott continues, which I think prefaces the rest of the tone of this article.

By most measures that I have seen, Dragonflight is a good expansion to WoW and Overwatch2 seems to have hit some stride. Ok, enough of the good news.

ABK got a nice rejection letter from the UK competition board with regards to Microsoft buying it out, on account of the existing size of the latter’s cloud gaming division. If anything, I think it fairly obvious to anyone who buys groceries that less competition is bad for the consumer. We’re not talking a mom and pop shop here, this is two massively large companies that should be able to operate independently. All the other reasons are certainly valid, but that one in particular is the giant red flag – it only serves to reduce competition, cut staff, and make rich people richer.

Second, ABK came out with their quarterly report. Not so good news for Blizzard. The key bit is that the monthly user count went from 45m to 27m, and that doesn’t count the NetEase drama which comes out for the next report. That’s 18 million users, or about a third. In fairness, it’s higher than the same period the year before, but it really makes you question how MAU as a metric actually has any true value when you’re in F2P land (Overwatch 2). So Blizz is back into the sub-30m numbers it was trending some time prior.

I get how most companies would be ecstatic to have a fraction of this player base. Blizz is not most companies – it is lead by a rather ruthless corporate overlord who answers only to shareholders. If the money coming in doesn’t go in the right direction, bad things happen.

To compound these issues, Blizz is also losing key talent. Anyone with high school team project experience knows for a fact that some people carry way more than others in any group setting. They are the lighthouse by which the team is guided through thick and thin. Losing these people, in any organization, is extremely painful. Enough of it, and the cascade effects are next to impossible to stop.

Tangent here, but one technique used by many large companies is to make the environment so unpleasant that people quit rather than have to lay them off, theoretically saving money. This model made sense pre-pandemic, and to in some markets post-, but what is actually does is cuts from the top and incentivizes the bottom to to less. Your best employees will rather easily find another job, which leaves a disproportionate hole in the team. Your worse employees will typically dig in their heels, because they can’t easily find another job. Rather than the immediate “pull the band-aid” effect on morale of a mass layoff, you get the continual drain to sanity, which people can feel but rarely adequately measure.

Back on topic. Or so.

Blizz is in an unenviable position where the culture has shifted so gradually that it would be all but impossible to pinpoint the exact item that caused the current state. Was it Warcraft3 Reforged? The double down on borrowed power in Battle for Azeroth, or tripling down on Sylvanas in Shadowlands? Ben Brode leaving Hearthstone? Kaplan leaving Overwatch? Shuttering of HotS? The all but abandonment of StarCraft? The announcement of Diablo Immortal? Blitzchung? Sexual harassment? The multiple lawsuits? The lack of a personable leader since Morhaime?

It’s more likely that this adheres to the Ship of Theseus metaphor, where aside from the company name ablazed on the games, Blizzard today is not recognizable from 10 years ago, let alone 5. So many parts have changed, and will change, that the gamer goodwill that brought it this far along is all but gone. Not saying too little too late, far from it. But the idea that Blizzard can attain some of it’s past glory/impact is quite the pipedream.

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