What happens to Blizzard? Where does the oldest gaming company go, why has it stopped making AAA projects and switched to shareware games for smartphones? Let's find out.
Part 1: Doka Witnesses 2
Blizzard is incredible. It has always miraculously found itself at the forefront of progress, has released games that have become models of reference, almost since the beginning has relied on online multiplayer and for years has maintained an interest in old projects, even for 20 years.
Everyone has heard about StarCraft, WarCraft and Diablo. Many people remember The Lost Vikings and Rock & n Roll Racing. Blizzard has earned a reputation as a company that only produces good games and ruthlessly annuls projects if they do not meet high quality standards. Fans of many tears have spilled over the deceased WarCraft: Adventures, StarCraft: Ghost and the unknown and therefore wonderful Titan. They did not suffer for a long time, because in return Blizzard presented them with many additions to World of WarCraft, three parts of StarCraft II and Overwatch assembled from the remains of the "titanium".
However, in recent years, the structure of the gaming market has begun to change. In the beginning, the PC suddenly lost its previous importance, giving way to consoles. Then the mobile sector declared itself, and the developers of other platforms have seen new ways to monetize the games. Soon after, the case on the PC went uphill, the e-sports come to life, the computer hardware manufacturers exhale with relief. But most importantly – it became clear that the gaming market drivers are no longer the AAA blockbusters, but the so-called "gaming services".
There is no need for deep plots, beautiful advertisements and lively heroes. It has been discovered that it is sufficient to release the semi-finished product and gradually bring it to mind if it finds its audience. He will not find – well, a fool with him, a small loss. Let's start again a little bit, maybe at least one shot.
Blizzard for a while tried to fight the system and acted in an ancient way. He has made surprising projects for the scale and quality of development. World of WarCraft and its followers, the ambitious StarCraft II and even Diablo III – have told interesting stories and made the characters worry. It is important to stress that they have shown good sales. And everything would be fine, but there was a problem. On stage, one after another flashed "stars" without conditional.
The public of all League of Legends and World of Tanks is made up of hundreds of thousands of players. Fans invent new genres and become billionaires (Minecraft, PUBG). Small studios launch large-scale blockbuster shareware and succeed (Warframe, Path of Exile).
In this context, the "old storm" did not look like a dinosaur, but a Neanderthal with a huge club. There is strength, but the dexterity of maneuvering in rapidly changing conditions is no longer enough. This, and watch the turn, independent developers accustomed to risk will ignore – and only a memory will remain from Blizzard. Alas, the market is ruthless and does not recognize the authorities. He is only interested in profit.
In 2012, after the release of Diablo III, the company changed the usual strategy once and for all. The AAA blockbusters allow everyone to deal with Ubisoft and Bethesda. They are rich, they can (sarcasm, if this). Blizzard has set its sights on the development of a new market for "gaming services".
In 2014, Hearthstone fired. This game started making a crazy profit and after 4 years it remains one of Blizzard's most successful games.
In 2015, not so lucky, the world saw Heroes of the Storm. A game with a difficult destiny that has long been tormented, altered and released too late. At that time, MOBA lovers had already split into two opposing camps – some for League of Legends, others for Dota 2 – and the vast majority saw no reason to pay attention to their simplistic resemblance.
Overwatch at the beginning, in 2016, was essentially an empty space, but Blizzard decided to risk it and sell it at full price. Today is a completely different game, but it took a long way to go. It was crushed like clay before our eyes, until it took a complete form. However, the first buyers became participants in a large-scale beta for their money.
Unthinkable for the "old Blizzard" passage: release a similar product. However, it fits well with the modern gaming market paradigm: a low-cost multi-player project under development with a focus on long-term development. This is the dream of all the big companies, and it's hard to resist the temptation: to earn a lot by investing so little. Risks are minimal, profits are huge, investors are happy.
It is important to avoid scandals, which is very difficult to do in the modern world. Different countries have their own vision of what and how to show. In some you will be denigrated for chauvinism, racism and homophobia. Others will be asked to renounce violence and sexual content. Third, with clenched teeth, they will ask if you, my friend, are promoting this among young people. And you have to work with everyone. Even with those countries where "the Doka 2 witnesses" act as experts – stubborn activists who with their smart faces carry the same nonsense about the "damage of computer games" invented.
Modern developers run along the edge of the razor, risking every moment in the epicenter of the scandal and under the control of state regulators. That's why today there are so few provocative games.
Watch Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and compare it to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. The series seems to be one, but seems to be made by people from different universes. Some were not afraid to raise sharp arguments and shock the public by inventing new mechanisms; this last simply copies the proven work of predecessors, relies on pure multiplayer. The former have taken great risks, the second has calculated everything, risks are reduced to a minimum.
Watch the "old Blizzard", which has become popular thanks to the dark games. The first Diablo has fascinated the bloody and cruel universe. StarCraft was shocked by the monstrous clash of different races, in which the allies became enemies a minute later, nobody could be trusted, there was a war of extermination. WarCraft sounds funny, but it's worth plunging into the plot and getting to know the heroes better, and it's shaking how much they hate each other. That's when we loved the Blizzard game. Due to the fact that the developers have tried to take us out of the comfort zone and to prove that the heroes and villains are all but unequivocal. Even the simple Diablo in the finale was surprised by an unexpected turn when the hero took his place after killing the demon. Horror!
How many brilliant characters has generated the Blizzard since? Figure skating dolls for Overwatch, popular with visitors to porn sites, but heroes that you can admire? That's all.
Blizzard stopped creating universes, cleverly adapting to changing conditions and switching to low-cost multiplayer games. Collectable card game, "heroic" multiplayer shooter, DOTA clone (at the beginning Blizzard wanted to put a paw on the brand created by the fans, but had no time, Valve proved more agile) – these are the brightest projects of the company in the last few years!
Why did it happen? In many ways we are responsible. Not you and me, my reader, but society: an acute political situation, fighting against social injustice that screams from every angle. A far-sighted society will try to get around this in a wide range, and the simplest option is to not touch these matters at all. In other words, to make purely multiplayer games with a plot written on the knee, or even without it, so that everyone around would be happy: Democrats and Republicans, feminist and nationalist, gay and still natural. Someone with someone because of something that fights – and that's it. The less questions, the greater the audience, the greater the income.
The games have become so toothless that their teeth are reduced by molasses.
Heroes of the Storm
Part 2: friends from China