Activision Blizzard remains in the limbo between its scandals and its future as a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft. In this interim period, Bobby Kotick remains firmly at the helm and the company has to keep making money or they might pooch the deal. And, while we get abbreviated quarterly financials from the company, they still have to keep enticing us so we have gotten some news from Blizzard.
- BlizzCon in 2023
There was an interview in the LA Times with Mike Ybarra, head of Blizzard that contained some interesting tidbits. It is behind a paywall, but other sites have picked up the stories, so they get links instead. One of the things that came up was the return of BlizzCon.
Blizzard would like to go back to having a live BlizzCon event, starting back up in 2023 when, presumably, the Microsoft acquisition is over and some bad actors in the executive suite at Activision have been paid off and sent on their way.
- Immortal Defense
In the same LA Times article Ybarra went to bat to defend the predatory monetization practices in Diablo Immortal, telling the press that 99.5% of the game is free to play and that the paid part is in the end game.
My most charitable thought on that was maybe he hasn’t played like… a minute into the game? Because that is about how long it takes before it starts hitting you up to buy things.
Anyway, this did not cement much credibility for the head of Blizzard with those who know the truth… but it is always spin and disinformation that wins with those unfamiliar with the situation.
- Blizz Buys Out the Proletariat
The proles will now be a wholly owned subsidiary of Blizzard, which is an oddly appropriate frame for the company’s labor relations. Proletariat is/was an independent game studio that produced the title Spellbreak. Blizzard has bought them to boost the workforce focused on developing content for World of Warcraft.
Blizz needs WoW to perform, because even Diablo Immortal bringing in a million dollars a day doesn’t match Azeroth’s ability to bring in a billion dollars annually as recently as 2020. Even Ybarra said in that LA Times interview that Blizzard needs to increase their content output, and Blizzard has had success with groups outside of Irvine reviving their products. Diablo II Resurrected is a prime example of that.
In a no-doubt related story, Spellbreak will be shutting down.
- Blizz Spending Money on Making More Developers
Also announced was Blizzard’s plan to spend some of its $250 million diversity fund to start a 12-week program called Level Up U with a goal of creating more full-time game developers.
As with the above item, this is no doubt related to Blizzard’s desire to increase content output in order to sustain its bottom line. I have opinions about “more” being “better” and “n+1” being able to increase output in any sort of predictable, linear fashion, but if you have the budget and some patience, you can make something happen.
- WoW Freebies on Prime Gaming
Speaking of needing WoW to perform, Blizz is pushing promotions for the game as well. I brought this up somewhere else, but I figured it deserved a mention on
its own. So now, if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber and you go to Prime Gaming, you can get some free transmog items over the next few weeks.
They aren’t great transmog items. At least I don’t think they are. And they certainly are not new ones. They are three of the head transmog items that have been in the Blizz store for ages now.
Two out of three of those are literally vying for the ugliest head transmog items ever in my book, and the third only excels in comparison to the other two. I remember these landing in the shop and thinking they were garbage and I would never buy them. But now I can own all three for free I guess.
I found this worth noting because, first, it is not something Blizz has done before with WoW. And, second, the Prime Gaming give-aways tend to be the domain of free to play titles, with League of Legends and World of Tanks/Warships often in the lineup, along with online games without a subscription fee, like Grand Theft Auto V Online.
- Warcraft III Reforged Might Be Finally Ready
Maybe? The early 2020 launch of Warcraft III Reforged was a master class in how to piss off the core audience for your nostalgia focused project. At launch it lacked critical feature parity, contained onerous new agreement to make sure nobody would create another DOTA mod that Blizzard didn’t fully own, and forced all owners of the original title to upgrade to the new version, basically stealing functionality from their installed base.
Blizzard acknowledged their complete screw up by offering a no questions asked refund policy for those of us who pre-ordered a copy before it was clear what a fiasco the whole thing was.
But Blizz didn’t kill the project. They kept working on it. And now, two and a half years after it launched, the game finally has ranked play and leader boards. They are finally achieving parity with a 2003 title!
- Overwatch Surges on XBox
NPD put out their June sales numbers and Overwatch jumped up to fifth place in sales according to their numbers.
I tend to be dubious of NPD. As I often noted back in the SuperData Research era, their numbers are US only, heavily influenced by physical retail sales, with only some digital sales being counted, and very console platform focused, as well as focusing only on “Premium” games, whatever that means. I used to compare/contrast NPD and SuperData to demonstrate how their collection methods yielded very different results.
As for why Overwatch jumped in June, the following was noted:
Overwatch returned to the top 20 best-selling titles chart for the first time since October 2019, ranking 5th overall. This jump was driven by the release of the Overwatch 2 Beta on June 28th.
So, within the scope of what NPD tracks, Overwatch has a very good June… or last three days of June, if sales jumped on the 28th.
- Heroes of the Storm Officially Done
Finally, this is the end of the tale for the long troubled title Heroes of the Storm. July 8th was the seven year anniversary of the title’s launch and Blizzard marked the moment with an update about its future status.
It isn’t getting shut down. Blizzard does try to keep its products alive and available in some form long past the time when most other companies would bother. But eventually the new content and regular updates tap gets turned off.
And so it goes for HotS, which will join Star Craft and Star Craft II in the Blizzard maintenance mode club. The lights will stay on and the store will remain there to take your money, but there are no new features or heroes planned going forward.
So it goes. Another bullet point post is done.