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Blizzard's reputation collapsed in just three years (pcgamer.com)
377 points by azalemeth 49 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 223 comments



I'm not under an illusion that it does any good, but I swore off all Blizzard products after the Blitzchung incident. It doesn't feel right giving money to a company that would side with the CCP over human rights in Hong Kong. I'd previously played Hearthstone and Overwatch, and I'd been a Blizzard fan since the original Warcraft. That happy company is dead, and something ugly is animating its corpse.

I think company founders are often great, idealistic people. People who genuinely want to make the world better.

When they step aside, however, the people who take over after them tend to be terrifying: zero empathy creatures who favor profit maximization over any and all human cost. Does anyone know why this happens?


> Does anyone know why this happens?

Oh it's easy to explain. Steve Jobs said it best [1]. He talks about innovation at Pepsi being a new bottle. That's what Activision Blizzard is. They have a "monopoly" with their key franchises, most notably CoD and WoW. They just release a new "bottle" every 1-2 years.

Game studios are a bit like a large film studio. They don't like the creative process. It's too unpredictable. They want a formula to produce content that can be predicted, projected and tracked.

Here's another key point: everything you do as a company either adds to or subtracts from your brand value.

For example: Square Enix giving discounted subscriptions and a general mea culpa around the original FF14 release, brand value add. Blizzard adding micro-transactions to classic TBC? That's nothing more than the short-term extraction of brand value into money.

It's a bit like delivering pizza. You're trading long term car depreciation and maintenance for short-term cash.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlBjNmXvqIM&t=2s


I think you’re more explaining what happens than why it happens.

Personally I know every project or initiative I’ve pushed for is because I have a vision of how things should be. When I give up the reigns to someone else, usually they’re just doing it because they have to.

There’s no replacement for passion.


Once an organization has grown to multiple layers of management the people on top will eventually become those who are good at climbing the ladder.

How we choose our leaders is IMHO one of the most important problems we yet don’t really understand. It’s partly a function of how we structure our organizations.


Just trying to play devils advocate, im not sure it’s possible to do it differently. You simply can’t replicate true founder attitudes and mentality and choices with a management with stock options and fiduciary responsibility.

Steve Jobs seemed to be very concerned about this and spent a lot of time trying to create an innovative organisation independent of him. What have we got since him? A smart watch and ever increasing apple taxes on the App Store. And incremental improvements to the iPhone.

It’s really depressing but I’m not sure as humanity we can do better really. The entrepreneur is just someone who starts with nothing and creates something. You can only go so far in recreating that in a large organisation.


> A smart watch and ever increasing apple taxes on the App Store. And incremental improvements to the iPhone.

And Swift, and Apple Silicon, and FaceID, and HomePod (which hasn't been a massive success but is at least an attempt at something new), and a return to the Cheese Grater Pro, and massive improvements to Maps, and the perpetual autonomous driving rumors. What am I forgetting? Oh, Apple actually halved App Store rates for smaller developers, inducing the stores on other platforms to do similar. Maybe some of these were on some sort of roadmap that Jobs left behind, but not all of them could have been.

The "innovation at Apple died along with Jobs" argument is looking more and more ridiculous as more time passes and Apple continues to innovate.


And you can’t talk about the Apple Watch without talking about the other half of its wearables: Airpods, which are near-universally lauded and undoubtedly innovative.

And who was talking about wearables before Apple entered the game? Only nerds, pretty much. There is something to be said about Apple repeatedly setting trends in our society. Many will chalk it up to “Apple worship” or whatever, but I think the real answer is that Apple is one of the only tech companies who can innovate in the cultural space.


> Airpods, which are near-universally lauded and undoubtedly innovative.

Are airpods innovative? I thought wireless Bluetooth headphones have been around for ages, including ones with better (subjective) aesthetics and sound quality than airpods.

This is a sincere question. I'm not familiar enough with airpods to know if they have some novel feature, or pulled off a magic combination of marketing+quality+features that predecessors had not, like the iPhone did.


Maybe my Apple fanboyism is showing but I think the Airpods had exactly that magic combination you described.

The case with a battery, seamless pairing, great battery life, reasonable EQ, and iconic style made them a smash hit.


Ha I get you, I tend to have a low opinion of Apple products so I try to temper my assumptions and ask questions about the products with an open mind.

Hm, my understanding is that this combination of positives wasn't especially novel in the wireless headphone market. Was it?

As far as the design, I tend to think Apple has historically excelled at design, to the point that my favorite phones aesthetically have been shameless Samsung rip-offs of iPhone designs. But I don't see this reputation lived up to in their last few products: eg, the square Apple Watch is a lot uglier than the contemporary (at launch) round Motorola offering. And I personally find Airpods to look like hearing aids; I was recently in the market for high-quality Bluetooth headphones and the Airpods' hideousness is part of what knocked them out of the running.


Some hearing aids, like the Phonak Virto Marvel Black, are marketed by their similar appearance to wireless ear buds.


Also, the size is key. Hearing aids keep getting smaller and less visible while continually improving at varying performance metrics, and airpods represent that technology starting to impact the consumer market.


> ever increasing apple taxes on the App Store.

This rate was 30% since launch, right? How is it ever increasing? Apple recently reduced the fee for developers making less than $1M/year[0]

[0] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/18/apple-will-cut-app-store-fee...


GP probably meant that people pay more and more for apps. They buy more apps or more expensive apps or more people buy apps. In other words, even with rate staying the same Apple has ever increasing revenue from the App Store.


And the GP would be wrong. Apps have never been cheaper and the App Store is a prime reason. The drive to $.99 or free apps started there.

Apple's increase in services revenue is primarily due to the incredible number of Apple devices in use, as well as the increased number of services being offered now.


I’m curious about your “apps have never been cheaper” comment. Is that actually true? Does that take into account long term ownership (recurring subscriptions)?


When the App Store first launched, it wasn't unusual to find apps being sold for more than $20. That quickly dropped to where it was hard to find an app that cost more than $.99. Of course this meant that many large vendors simply didn't create or sell apps in the Store, fearing to cannibalize their products.

Now the model has shifted to subscription based apps. But even with these, there's a huge amount of free apps as well. It appears that the majority of income comes (as it does in Las Vegas) from "whales" who spend an disproportionate amount of money, primarily on games.


I’m sure we can do better, but not sure exactly how. Working with longer time periods for incentives is probably of importance. Actively nurturing creative behavior rather than just risk mitigation also. I think this is something organizations need to be aware of because it is not natural.

Also I don’t think we are at a optimization level where only the most radical types like founders are needed. It is probably enough to get out of the way of reasonably smart people. I see this in the public sector all the time.


It’s not strictly technical, but some level of privacy is the big differentiator between Apple and everyone else.


Why it happens is because you cannot find a genuinely creative person with the drive and motivation needed to keep pushing a juggernaut like Blizard forward who would be willing to drop their own creative vision and adopt the one of the original founders. Who knows what they'll do? When its time to eat plates of shit will they do it? It's far too much risk to put an unknown in that position.

Your only option is to send in the corporate fleet because they're predictable. Even if they've failed before they will never surprise or throw out any curve balls to investors and shareholders and that's valued far above the possibility of a new creative spark achieving something.


As the company grows the types of people that are attracted and unattracted by the company change, as do those that are accepted and rejected by it. For example, risk averse people are attracted to mature companies, and they don't like risk takers.

One of the consequences is that companies become more specialized and lose deep expertise. To put it bluntly, its because they no longer have people with deep expertise, and even when they do they are ignored by management who tend to be less interested and knowledgeable about the subject matter.

I don't know of any company that has tried to prevent this. It's a general force that permeates everything, including recruiters, HR, their job postings, etc. So even companies that think they're preventing it probably still walk right into it regardless.

Of course, specialization is not necessarily good or bad. In a very competitive environment the company may not have a choice.


Once you've lost the ability to innovate or be original, all you can do is cut costs or raise prices.


This is basically the innovator's dilemma.

A large market position (not really anything related to monopoly power per se) leads companies to be very risk-averse since they can always make better gains in the short-term by incremental improvements rather than radical changes. Right up until someone disrupts the market and crushes them.


>Steve Jobs said it best. He talks about innovation at Pepsi being a new bottle. That's what Activision Blizzard is. They have a "monopoly" with their key franchises, most notably CoD and WoW. They just release a new "bottle" every 1-2 years.

Isn't this also kind of what Apple has become in the post-Steve Jobs era?


You have a point

Cook is not a product leader cut from the same cloth as Steve (I mean... few are). His talent was always for supply side management. This is really significant. To secure components and manufacturing capacity for Apple's scale is no mean feat.

I would say 2 significant things have happened on Cook's watch though:

1. The Apple Watch. This certainly hasn't had the impact the iPhone had. It was also launched as a luxury product (remember the ex-Burberry CEO who drove this? The $10,000 Apple Watch edition?). It later got rebranded as a health product and there I think it has potential. The latest version can do ECGs and determine blood oxygen. IMHO there's a massive future market in passive health monitoring.

It's still a somewhat awkward user experience however in a way that never would've happened on Steve's watch. Apple's reputation for polished user experience as a whole is degrading and we may eventually get to the point of Bill Gates's legendary rant [1].

Steve also pushed back against Johnny Ives' hardline pure vision and I doubt the butterfly keyboard fiasco would've happened under Steve.

The second innovation is on the silicon front. There are two prongs to this:

1. Replacing Intel with ARM (M1); and

2. Breaking Qualcomm's "monopoly" on wireless broadband chipsets. This is still ongoing.

Apple still has a lot of inertia from Steve even after all these years. Who knows how long that will last.

[1]: https://blog.seattlepi.com/microsoft/2008/06/24/full-text-an...


Somewhat late to this discussion. But I am willing to bet Apple Watch didn't start out as some sort of innovative product. It was born as an urgent need for a product with leading edge technology. Or a need for the operation and supply chain. That is why the user experience didn't quite match the usual Apple standard and went on for a few years as path finding / soul searching.

iPhone success has its own problem. You can no longer put leading edge technology into it, because these tech dont scale to hundred million of unit per year. That is why you always see Apple being late to many tech. The only way to do that, or to help doing that, is to have a product that are sold in lower volume, higher margin, and allow them to test and innovate. Both Apple Watch and iPhone Pro ( or iPhone X ) were that. Apple Watch allowed their supply chain to test and improve OLED, LTPO, playing around with material such as ceramics, stainless steel, titanium alloy ( coming soon to iPhone Pro ), SiP ( System in Package ), Double Side Packaging, New Battery packaging, Low Power Bluetooth and WiFi and lots of other small details. They allow Apple to refine the process before they are put on iPhone, or in many cases never actually arrive on an iPhone.


Apple innovated a lot post-Steve Jobs.

The development line of the A CPUs that led to the M1 is definitely not ‘a new bottle every 1-2 years’. The M1 out-innovated Intel, Qualcomm and to a lesser extend AMD.

Apple also branched out to other categories with the Apple Watch and AirPods.

Apple is most definitely still innovating.


True. That's why I said "kind of".

However, I'd argue the CPU change is considered a black box vertical improvement by the vast majority of end users. It's a big innovation, but it's still just an improvement to an existing product. And AirPods aren't really groundbreaking.

Apple Watch counts, but is also just a nicer version of something available to people for almost a decade, whereas the iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, and early Macintoshes really offered something very different from anything else you could reasonably get at the time.

A modern equivalent would be, say, "just works" AR glasses, or something no one even knew they might want (faster horses vs. cars, etc.). It's a lot to ask for, but that is the reputation they're trying to maintain, and they are worth over $2 trillion.


While the nerd in me wants to agree with you, aren't all of these just great examples of deeper vertical integration?

When I started in computing most major players had their own CPU's, and over time everything converged on mostly Intel with AMD/ARM in there to mix it up. Now we see companies swinging back to the old days where each will have their own CPU's. To me its a return to vertical integration and exposes all of us to a new era of lock-in.


> While the nerd in me wants to agree with you, aren't all of these just great examples of deeper vertical integration?

Okay. And? You still need innovation to make something like the M1.


> They have a "monopoly" with their key franchises, most notably CoD and WoW.

I don't follow, even in the air quotes monopoly context. Could you elaborate? I thought anyone can make a game, even that specific type of game and reach a paying audience quickly if it is good. Aren't the game engines for CoD and WoW actually owned by different companies? Eg: Unreal Engine is owned by Epic/Tencent.


I guess they have a legal monopoly on their intellectual property? But I do see a lot of sloppy uses of the word monopoly that just seem to be autopilot.


There was no need for inverted commas in the GGP post. Intellectual property is precisely a government-granted monopoly under specific rules. Nobody else can make a Call of Duty game: they have a monopoly on the market for Call of Duty games.


Yeah, but having a monopoly over their own IP isn’t in any way noteworthy. I took the scare quotes to mean that they had pseudo-monopoly in the broader space (WoW -> MMORPG, CoD -> console FPS).

I’m not sure I agree with them, but stating that they have a monopoly over their own IPs is so obvious and uninteresting that I find it hard to believe that’s what they were going for.


It's interesting in the sense that as a consumer of CoD games, you're not getting any innovation from Activision. You're just getting a new bottle every couple of years. Compare that to Apple, where arguably you're not just getting a new bottle: if you're in the ecosystem, you're getting an M1, air pods, a watch, lidar on your phone, the opportunity to spend 3 figures on a "pencil", whatever. Very different approaches.


Great answer, and sounds a lot like 2021 FAANG


> Does anyone know why this happens?

I think it's because of incentives. For-profit companies are incentivised to maximise profits. There might be resistance against doing so in unethical ways at the start but as the company grows it becomes harder to control until eventually it just does whatever is most profitable, limited only by laws (most of the time). Any CSR or ethical decision becomes a PR stunt to distract from the unethical behaviours.

A lot of not-for-profits also fall into this trap unfortunately as they try to maximise revenue or as they become bloated with administrators.

I think at the founder level - trying to start B-corps, keeping them small-mid and embedding ethics deeply into the culture is the way to go but that is quite different from startup culture.


Apple is a master at this. News of its child and slave labor abuses have been brushed off because people love their products.


Also because almost every other tech company (Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, etc.) make their products at the exact same Foxconn factories. Apple just gets the biggest headline.


I don't see how that absolves Apple.

Apple gets the bigger headline because of their claim to support environmentalism and human rights.


It doesn’t absolve Apple but it explains why the headlines don’t stick. There is nothing unique about Apple in this regard and they don’t claim to make the phones anywhere else. Who makes their products are made isn’t even part of their corporate messaging.


Who said it absolves them? I think the point is just that there is no alternative which can match them without resorting to the same abuses.


Cite sources for that claim please.


You can look it up online.

Xbox Series X and S Manufacturer: Flextronics and Foxconn

Nintendo Switch Manufacturer: Foxconn

Sony Manufacturer: PlayStation 5 In-house (my mistake on them). PlayStation 3 and 4 were both made by Foxconn assisting.

But it also applies to others:

Google Pixel 5 Manufacturer: Foxconn

Kindle Manufacturer: Foxconn (Fire Tablets are made in Hong Kong by Quanta due to AOSP Anti-Fork rules)

Nintendo DS Manufacturer: Foxconn

Modern Nokia / HMD Global Devices Manufacturer: Foxconn

Xbox 360 Manufacturer: Foxconn

AMD Threadripper TR4 Socket Manufacturer: Foxconn

And so on. Apple, Foxconn. Because almost everybody uses Foxconn.

So when you see those articles about "Apple factory suicide nets," calling it the whole tech industry's contract manufacturer of choice would have been more apt.


Foxconn has lots of factories in lots of different places. Does it matter to specify which factory / place has the problem?


Perhaps, but unlikely.

I can’t find how many people worked at Foxconn at the time, but right now it’s employing more than the population of any of the smallest eight US states. Wikipedia’s list of suicide rates by state is from a different year than the population, but it looks like those states are about 5 times the population-adjusted rate that Foxconn had.

Wikipedia also says that China’s national suicide rate is difficult to study due to political concerns, before saying the WHO says it was 9.7/100k in 2016. That would mean you should expect closer to 126 suicides per year (in Foxconn’s current workforce), rather than the 14 in 6 months that made the news.


Steve Jobs was actually asked in an interview about Foxconn, and while he said suicides are horrible, they aren’t out of line with the general population statistically. Even though that was widely considered unfeeling.


No, it doesn't matter, as cheap labor in on fab subsidizes the other fabs, even if those would have best working conditions thinkable.


Apple probably gets the biggest headline because, of the four companies you listed in total, they're the biggest company.


I'm like 99% sure my Nintendo is made In Japan, or at least thats what it says on the box.


Nope. Nintendo DS was made at Foxconn. Nintendo 3DS was also made at Foxconn. The Wii was made at Foxconn. And Nintendo Switch is made at Foxconn.


They're assembled at Foxconn, the components themselves are typically made in much less formidable conditions, if you can believe it.


Maybe you read "designed in Japan" on the box, similar to how Apple likes to print their neat "designed in Cupertino" line on the package.

I read somewhere that 40% of all (consumer) electronic devices worldwide go through Foxconn. Pretty much everyone uses them. Don't see a proud "made in USA" or something like that on the website? Foxconn, most likely.


BTW some PS4s are made in Japan


Also making a lot money off what is essentially a huge casino. (games that use Addictive Gambling Mechanics to sell Micro-transations)


What's the net social outcome of this? Would these people be spending money at the casino instead?


No, most people don't have access to casinos. Likely they would spend it on other luxury goods like bar visits, clothes they don't need or more games. Its just a way for games to extract more money from the market without providing any more value than before.

The thing with games is that the box price is extremely under what consumers value them, so selling consumers small bits of the game as micro transactions is the way games extract their actual market value. It doesn't deliver more value than before, but the current monetization better represents the value it delivers to consumers.


That’s a good theory, but everyone I know that’s worked with game microtransaction data says the majority of money comes from a few “whales”.

Some whales clearly suffer mental health issues (just from looking at the timing and amount of the transactions). The remainder are almost exclusively money laundering of some sort (usually converting stolen credit cards to game assets that can be sold for real money).


Some whales spend $1000 every weekend at the club/bar. They simply have that much money and dont care how they spend it.


That is on android too. So Google too


It is too. (And Tencent, Epic, Blizzard, Valve, etc)


Do you think worker-owned businesses can mitigate this? After all, one of their pluses is supposed to be that the workers can choose to prioritise things other than profit.


Not the parent, but I have a thought on this. While workers would be able to prioritize things other than profit, I don't think they would. From an economics analysis, we're really just redefining profit as benefits to all corporation members instead of to the owners. Imagine a middle manager has to choose between hiring a factory that is cheap but has a bad rights/ecological/legal record and a factory that will be more expensive, but is proverbially clean . At a top owned corporation they have no personal incentive to maximize profits, but if they own part of the company, their own compensation will increase if they take the less ethical option.

Note: I generally think a distributed ownership model for a company leads to better health and production in the long run, but this is probably a case where it's worse. When incentives are distributed, and those incentives are perverse, you just have everyone bearing the pressure to enact unethical business prectices.


Worker owned business can't even compete. Name one such company that is in the top 5 in any product category.


This is to a large part due to worker owned business being unable to attract capital. A capital giver wants ownership or at least tcomaprable influence as consequence. At that point they aren't worker-owned anymore.

Generally however I think worker-owned companies are unlikely to take risk but value the workplace of current workers over future workers. (i.e. closing a department in order to build a new market will be delayed)


Ocean Spray.

Wikipedia describes it as

> Ocean Spray is an American agricultural cooperative of growers of cranberries and grapefruit headquartered in Plymouth County, Massachusetts. It currently has over 700 member growers (in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, Florida, British Columbia and other parts of Canada, as well as Chile). The cooperative employs about 2,000 people, with sales of $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2013 and accounts for 70% of North American cranberry production.


Apparently Huawei has an interesting ownership structure that may partially approximate this? Unfortunately I never bothered to try to find out in more detail.


For more alone these lines, what incentives can do to a company look no further than: The Case Of Arthur Anderson.


Here is a link for those like me that had a vague recollection of the name, but had forgotten most of the details (assuming that you meant “Andersen” rather than “Anderson”):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Andersen


What examples of B-corps doing this successfully do you know?


Apple is most certainly a for-profit company yet they are going strong.

Profit is what keeps the company going. No company lasts long without some focus on profit.


It's almost like there might be some inherent problem with running everything through profit motives...


There definitely is. However, we must remember that we are enjoying a standard of living unimaginable only a few hundred years ago. I think the system has some inherent flaws, but it has still served us extremely well.


Humanity better find a better system soon. It's not sustainable.


There isnt, just dont expect it to solve the worlds problems or keep things fantastic or great forever.


By and large I think the top level execs of these companies are sociopaths. Not the classic ones that are obvious and ultimately cross too many people. No these people are on a spectrum of being able to understand human emotions and feel them just enough to easily fool standard humans. However their 90% goal is money and that blinds them over time to things like customer loyalty, fair product for a fair price, innovation and it just becomes a money press to them and then they lose customers and throw their hands up and declare well that's just the way it is completely forgetting how their founding products and innovations got them there.


> I think company founders are often great, idealistic people. People who genuinely want to make the world better.

> When they step aside, however, the people who take over after them tend to be terrifying: zero empathy creatures who favor profit maximization over any and all human cost.

Seems to me like this has more to do with going public. When a company starts being treated as a money-printing machine, and its actual business is nothing but the implementation details of that machine, it either crumbles or it becomes a destructive force. Almost all companies whose products thrive and/or have a net positive effect on society have somebody at the helm who cares about what the company is actually doing. At a public company, investors are the ones at the helm, and they usually just want money. The company tends to switch from value-creation to value-extraction. If their dominance is entrenched enough that innovation and quality aren't very important anymore, they become vampiric. If it isn't, they slowly whither away.


I think you're taking for granted all the benefits to society provided by those profit-seeking public companies. The baseline is all of us starving to death with no possessions or food except what we can grow ourselves or scrounge, not the local supermarket/retail/etc. stores always being there to provide for our needs efficiently.


The baseline is nature. Society has pushed the effective baseline so low that countless people are absolutely miserable, and we're slowing losing our connection to the natural world, to our detriment


That's not the baseline. That's currently the most probable medium term outcome.


Fun fact, Bobby Kotick (the "zero-empathy, profit-maximizing creature" who runs Activision Blizzard) was listed in Jeffrey Epstein's black book:

https://www.reddit.com/r/pcgaming/comments/dfsrt3/activision...

Hard to draw further conclusions, but it's definitely not a positive.


Bobby Kotick was accused of exactly the sort of behavior in the current Activision/Blizzard allegations in 2007, by a flight attendant on his private jet.


Agreed with all of this.

I'm a big fan of Blizzard products, played the original Starcraft when I was younger and still play some of the more recent games. It's blatantly obvious for a long time Blizzard has been sitting on its' laurels and not innovating.

The linked article does a great job of pointing out the major Blizzard mistakes, but I'll add one more: Blizzard's storywriting ability has fallen off a cliff. I love Blizzard games because of their great stories, but for years now the storylines have become muddled and clearly written by their D-team.

An example would be this story, but there are many more I could point to: World of Warcraft's latest cinematic is a narrative disaster and players hate it https://www.pcgamer.com/world-of-warcrafts-latest-cinematic-...


The writing in WoW nowadays truly is appalling. Playing a horde character, I spent the entire expansion forced to perform actions that made no sense internally and were the opposite of what I would have liked to do.

There is zero player agency and zero empathy. Quests were garbage and made no sense.

I’m a player who has played wow since beta sixteen years ago and I am finally at the point where I am giving up.


Fellow beta player here, I never cared about the overall story (although I like jokes and good scenes / subplots when they happen), but the design, timegating, and a large chunk of the art in SL killed the game for me. So it's really a disaster in all areas.


Blizzard writing and storytelling has always been crap. I think expectations were just lower back then.


I disagree. Both Starcraft and Diablo I had good writing.

For me the decline came with Warcraft 3. Both the visuals and story of this game were shit.

And after that WoW became juggernaut and for some reason Blizzard decided that only pre teen david Eddings fans are their audience and never bothered to check the real demographics afterwards. Such a juvenile writing could only be achieved deliberately.


I'm of the same opinion; Warcraft 3 didn't feel like a Blizzard game, and nothing has since.


Think of it from the perspective of a zero empathy creature who favours profit maximisation over any and all human cost. What are they going to do with their life? What would need to happen for them not to end up in charge of companies?

This is a standard thing that has been happening for centuries as people try organisational structures that rely on good people being in charge. Turns out that there isn't a divining rod to identify bad people in advance, but they do tend to be hard workers who try hard to get in to positions of power.


>This is a standard thing that has been happening for centuries as people try organisational structures that rely on good people being in charge.

Honestly, if your organizational structure relies on good people do be in charge, you've already lost. The trick is so that people in power never have too much power, and don't have the power to destroy it. It can be a simple system like requiring 3 keys of 3 people to launch a nuclear strike, or something way more complex, like the separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution.

When creating the structures, you have to think of it like a video game designer to a degree. You have to always keep in mind how would a bad actor hack this to his or her advantage, then remove whatever it is you find.


I think that's how you get to the top of an organization (besides creating it like a founder). You have to be a pretty cold individual, and it's not about making games or Coca Cola. It's about consolidating your power as you rise to the top of a large corporation and build people who are loyal to you. These guys have no vision about what a new game should be like. They want to get bigger, they WANT to make bigger deals and bigger markets. That's why they want to open up into China at all costs.


I quit at exactly the same time, but from Starcraft 2. I think many corporations do this, but with Blizzard it was particularly egregious. I also pin some blame on the CCP, which is a power-at-all-costs machine, rather than a profit driven one. For me, Blizzard was on a disappointing but tolerable money grabbing path before Blitzchung.


> I think company founders are often great, idealistic people. People who genuinely want to make the world better.

I used to think like that, but I now think that's a skewed view of the world that I used so that I could feel better about it.

I don't have any doubts that some founders "genuinely want to make the world better", but I now believe that they are just the minority. Most founders are just after the fame and money—some are even adept at putting on a facade so that you would happily give them money. There is nothing wrong with that, it's just not the world that I would like to live in.


My experience mirrors yours almost exactly.

Quitting Blizzard meant giving up my primary source of entertainment at the time, and having a lot less contact with some dear friends since then. It wasn't easy, but the right choice for me was clear: I am unwilling to support a company that silences/punishes people for promoting human rights. I won't even touch their free-to-play games any more, since that helps populate their servers.

I'm not sure what my point is here. Maybe just to acknowledge that it's somehow comforting to know I'm not alone. Thanks for sharing.


The most impressive part is that Blizzard managed to give everyone a reason to hate them. For you, it is international politics. For others, it is about employee treatment. Others may have something against loot boxes and microtransactions. And for most, it is simply the massive drop in quality of their games.

Concerned about ethics? Blizzard bad. Who care about ethics, I just want good games? Blizzard bad. They don't seem to have any idea about their core market, they can't even do damage control properly. I understand that shareholders want profit but here, it is as if Activision wanted to deliberately destroy the Blizzard brand. I don't know about how shareholders think, but a once well respected brand like Blizzard must have some value.


The one Blizzard game that I was fond of more than any other was Warcraft III. It holds a special place in my heart because I saved money for several months to be able to buy it for myself. It was a big deal to me. And wow, that game was everything I had hoped it would be when I finally got it.

A couple of years ago Blizzard thought they’d re-release the same game with updated graphics to cash in on the nostalgia. If it had been even half decent I would have bought it. But it was an unplayable mess. They couldn’t even release a playable version of a game that already existed. That’s when I knew Blizzard had died. I’m done with them.

I’m sure they’ll survive for a long time with their CoD and WoW, but I want nothing to do with them.


> Does anyone know why this happens?

Where to start?

Every organization that grows suffers from this.

At some point as you’ve noticed the ones that rise to the top excel at consolidation of power and expanding influence, by projecting success and gaining a network of support by carving out influence to cronies.

Part of this is because it’s necessary: The skills for building and running a small company isn’t the same as for a large one.

But this is where things fall apart: The same skills that took the small org to a large organization is also more rewarding and remains more rewarding than the core skills and values that was fundamental to the business in the first place.

The few orgs that succeed tend to keep someone who could be or was part of the core workforce calling the shots.

Even this isn’t a guarantee of success though (disruption). Sun Microsystems didn’t lose their way, but they didn’t adopt.


Does it feel "right" giving money to a company that would side with the American killings of civilians for oil and profit? Just trying to understand how morals work.


I think it is possible that many people who start new companies are also passionate about making a difference in a specific field and that is what pushes them to go through the trouble of starting a company from scratch.

The people who take over from them, on the other hand, are likely people who don't quite have the same level of passion and who see success purely in monetary terms.


It's darwinian, founders are selected over product success. New CEOs are selected for their finance skills.

The first tend to be creative and empathetic, while the latter prefer cost cutting and lack of empathy.


Your delta by itself doesn't really matter to anyone but yourself but all those deltas add up over time and I think accelerated. Bad reputation gets around. I swore them off myself.


My theory is this: founders want to build something. They are creators. Their motivation is building something new / cool / useful. The second generation of leadership is motivated by power / money. They don’t create. They climb ladders built by creators. The difference in motivation is not subtle. The outcomes are generally positive in the first case and sociopathic in the second.


> Does anyone know why this happens?

Unless it is continuously and actively minimized with explicit countermeasures, large organizations tend to degrade into filtering sociopaths into top positions.

The tendency to prioritize financialization over product also doesn't help.

As you mention, once both the founders are gone and the organization is large, watch out...


> Does anyone know why this happens?

One hardly needs to theorize; Bobby Kotick is on record saying he wanted to take the fun out of game development a couple decades ago now.

Management like him, Mitt Romney, need people generating the right statistics. Their families expect the good life.

It’s our nation state past-time to extract financial profit, to support the political choice decades ago to force the dollar down the worlds throat.


I'd rather have a western company obey the CCP enough so that they can make money in the largest nation in the world than see them give the Chicoms the middle finger and be kicked out. If they get barred from of China, Chinese gamers will just have to play games by some "Yes man" company that grovels at the feet of the CCP.

By building up a reputation in China, Blizzard would over time gain leverage to expose Chinese gamers to Western products and build a relationship that benefits everybody.

This kind of dilemma is actually something I see a lot in many situations. Someone thinks that the larger organization is wrong, so they disobey the rules and get fired. Then, some "yes man" is hired and no improvement is made. People should remember that the only way you can do good and potentially get changes to be made is to not get fired in the first place.


> By building up a reputation in China, Blizzard would over time gain leverage to expose Chinese gamers to Western products and build a relationship that benefits everybody.

That’s been the US’s policy towards China for decades, and it hasn’t worked out the way we expected. Rather than Chinese consumers demanding western freedoms, we’ve gotten western companies doing whatever the Chinese government has wanted.


My point is not necessarily that western products have the capacity to create demand among the Chinese for a western lifestyle. Whatever the goal is (profits, maximizing freedom for the Chinese, whatever) withdrawing from China completely does the opposite of helping to achieve that goal. It's a bad strategy anyway that you look at it. Pulling out of China completely is the sort of thing that only sounds good when you are in the moment and acting out of pure emotion.


There's a very very large gulf between "don't get banned from the entire country" and "actively support said country's human rights violations".

Plenty of game developers do not support the CCP, yet have their games available there. Blizzard chose wrong.


I don't understand why a game company is expected to have an opinion about international politics, outside of "we don't want our platform to be used for politics."

It's bad enough that Facebook mods are now in charge of deciding what constitutes the truth; don't also conscript game companies into fighting idealogical battles with foreign states.


Politics isn’t _really_ a thing that you can pretend doesn’t exist and operate in isolation/ignorance of it.

You can’t pretend it doesn’t exist (see the “no politics in my video games/comics please” argument used by some gamers) because it a part of, as much as a function of, any given culture. This doesn’t mean of course, that we require every company to lay out some kind of political guidelines that they’ll support/abide by, but it does mean that when something happens culturally, and the politics “rears its head” that something will need to be done, or some position will need to be made.


Companies ignore the vast majority of political events and issues. Consider a hypothetical startup where all employees are working too many hours to keep track of current events: recent political/cultural developments will necessarily be missing from company policies and products.


Being ignorant of politics isn’t the same thing as being able to operate in that state.

Imagine your hypothetical team had been (over)working on a game which was all about the “valiant mujahideen freedom fighters in Afghanistan fighting off the Soviet Union” when 9/11 happened?

Or they started working with the likeness of any of Prince Andrew, Rolf Harris, Kevin Spacey, etc. before they became personae-non-grata?

Just because some politics is trivia doesn’t make it all trivia.


Postal was published after the Columbine shooting and did well enough to warrant a sequel. I can't imagine a less justifiable premise.

The United States has large numbers of contrarians and free speech supporters - they even enjoy constitutional protections. Neither the free market nor the state obstructed Postal's success.


I believe both of my two examples are vastly less politically acceptable in America than mass shootings, mainly on the basis that nothing changes in the USA as a result of mass shootings while things did in fact happen as a result of 9/11, and that child abusers have always been in the category of “villains so evil we don’t need additional explanation”. There’s a reason why you have political cartoons like this: https://images.app.goo.gl/dRaH47BbaKAjJt116

(And that’s just the USA; the rest of the world isn’t like America, ignoring politics in other countries can get your games banned for reasons that would never hold up in America because of the First Amendment)


The point, I think, is that we were expecting them not to have an opinion about international affairs, but Blizzard went out of there way to take a pro-CCP position.

> don't [...] conscript game companies into fighting idealogical battles

Quite right; China conscripted Blizzard into helping them fight an ideological battle, and I think that's reprehensible.


Letting him express his opinion would not be "fighting ideological battles"

They went out of their way to pick a side.


If you continue to operate under the status quo without comment, then you are implicitly supporting the status quo.

For example, if you follow Chinese laws by banning anyone from your platform who criticise China in any fashion, you are upholding the Chinese status quo.

Now, you can say "that's the fault of the law, not of me". To which I would ask, do you actually expect laws to be the arbiter of morality? By that logic then anything immoral should be made illegal (libertarians reading this should be frothing at the mouth at this notion).

Of course, you could argue that it's not the law that ought to arbite morality, but the customer. In which case, why would you not understand why customers would expect game companies to have an opinion on politics, and pressure said companies when said opinion is unpalatable? You just (hypothetically) said you expect them to be the arbiters of morality.


Blizzards reputation has been going downhill since the merge with Activision. Some of my veteran WoW friends returned with the release of classic and TBC classic, but no one stayed for long. Blizzard has been destroying all of their franchises

WoW - convoluted imbalanced hot mess

Diablo - repetitive. Diablo immortal.

Warcraft III - buggy and laggy steaming pile of undelivered promises

Overwatch - imbalanced. Overwatch 2 with weird changes

StarCraft - thrown in a ditch left to die

HoTS - culled the competitive scene and super slow release cycle.

Hearthstone - pay2win RNG fiesta

On top of that all the scandals and drama around the company…


I find it a fascinating case study that some of the company’s most anticipated releases are just re releases: Diablo 2 resurrected, WoW classic, Warcraft 3 reforged. Death by a thousand lapses in game quality and you get a lot of hype about refurbished old games. Some of it is rose covered nostalgia but IMO there’s been a sea change in game design since the advent of the attention economy, pay to progress, micro transactions, etc


It speaks to executive disfunction -- an inability to currate and fund a long-term creative pipeline, instead focusing on short-term revenue generators.


I think it’s the hard times, strong people, good times process with more steps:

Passionate game creators make good games, good games get players and buyers, that creates profitable/well known companies, that can attract the (no offense) non passionate/revenue seeking MBA types, they worsen the games, passionate developers leave…

I HOPE those passionate developers can get together again to make new good games but who knows. I imagine it’s hard to attract capital without promise of simple game loop (read: minimal investment required) and with pay for progression. Those returns (I imagine) are just too damn juicy until people break the cycle


Yeah, milking existing franchises is definitely a sign of deeply rooted dysfunction. I was excited for their Project Titan of whatever but it got axed. That was years ago…


Using existing franchisees isn’t the problem. It’s doing it poorly!


It's also telling that the team doing SC: Remastered cared enough to make an emulator for EUD maps (SC1 maps which used a buffer overflow accessible from within the map scripting language to execute arbitrary code), but the War3: Reforged release was a big steaming turd of missed promises.


At the very least they're capable of doing decent remasters, which why it was surprising how absolutely terrible the WC3 remaster was and how much they cocked it up. I have rarely seen such a bad series of decisions before in making a game. I've seen plenty of bad games but WC3R is on another level.


It doesn't say great things about the game industry in general that remasters and rereleases are so prominent.

The best Bioware game I've played in years is Mass Effect 1 in the Legendary Edition. The best Total War game in a decade is the rerelease of Rome Total War.


I’ll give them that one, as people have been demanding the re-releases, especially classic and Diablo


> Overwatch - imbalanced. Overwatch 2 with weird changes

As a counterpoint, IMO OW is in the most balanced place it ever has been now. A lot of it has to do with the making of OW2, which has meant no new heroes, but still I do think the OW team has done excellent work with competitive balance recently. This is reflected in the most diverse hero selections ever in Overwatch League (pretty much making hero bans there obsolete).

OW2 PvE and PvP 5v5 from what we know to me seem both to be good plans and can make the game huge again – or not. Depends on the execution.


Hasn’t the meta in OW been double shield for a while? One of the worst ones?


No, those days are long gone. OWL is dive or pharah+ball or rush, and sometimes some double shield or mcree+torb. A lot of comps can work.


On the other hand, people have been saying that for decades now.

I was a huge fan of the original Blizzard games, and I remember thinking they were getting off track with StarCraft, and being unhappy that WoW was a MMOG. And don't even ask about Diablo 3.

In a perverse way, it's actually kind of amazing they've been able to milk their franchises for so long.


> Blizzards reputation has been going downhill since the merge with Activision.

That was in 2008, right? So their reputation has been going downhill for 13 years?


Actually, yes. Blizzard had an unbelievable amount of goodwill and reputation built up over the years and in any case, these kinds of changes do not happen overnight.

For me, the first understanding that things are rolling downhill was how they killed the social aspect with the removal of battle.net without any replacement and completely messed up the concept of playing custom maps when StarCraft 2 launched. Longer thread from 2010 about custom maps: https://tl.net/forum/sc2-maps/139745-the-real-problem-with-s...


For me the company lost a lot of my respect when they released Starcraft 2 without LAN support. The game was destined to slowly die.


Not to mention the whole Starcraft BW esports fiasco with KeSPA.


Probably 11, When the first third of Starcraft II released without LAN support, borked custom games, and with that mess of a story. But that was just an aberration surely. Then 2012 was the real money auction house in Diablo 3 with an even worse excuse for a story and I gave up on the company.

They got a few brownie points back for coming up with the successor to TF2 in Overwatch, but by that point that was the aberration. Everything else has been nostalgia or momentum.


You just reminded me that SC2 was split up into 3 parts. I'd completely forgotten. I can't remember how they justified it at the time, but through the lens of history and their other actions it certainly looks like they thought it'd just be easy to make us pay 3 times.

Either way, I enjoyed SC2 for a while but it just felt like it was missing something compared to Brood War. I never did buy the other 2 parts.


The campaign took a different focus on each parts of SC2. I personally enjoyed this, and thought it was much better than a much shorter storyline crammed into one game (or alternatively a delay of several years before release).

IMO SC2 was a great success, but it feels like they are no longer giving it much love because it’s not a recurring revenue driver for them :(


Pretty sure they hated KeSPA piggybacking off their game and they hated the entire idea of eSports. They took an extremely hands-off approach on that side of things and intentionally or not did a lot to try and cripple it for SC2.

I feel like I need to share the old bnet 2.0 vs rock picture now: https://www.reddit.com/r/starcraft/comments/c7ft8/stone_vs_b...

This was possibly my first exposure to the situation where a major new software release looks prettier but loses so many useful features. I have fond memories of playing SC1 on custom servers, and even downloading custom chat clients to talk to friends in channels but without the game open. Bnet 2.0 completely destroyed a lot of the culture around the game, just like peer to peer matchmaking did when it replaced servers for some FPS games. The game itself was solid and despite all that did have some legs as an eSport, but it was the first time I really felt that Blizzard was changing, which was solidified with Diablo 3 and then Hearthstone. Both those games were designed with a recurring revenue stream, and I'm thinking SC2 got a little less attention because it didn't have that.


Until 2013, Blizzard was at least partially shielded from Kotick by specific terms in the corporate bylaws that gave the board (read: Vivendi, which had a controlling interest) power over Kotick on such things as the Blizzard budget, firing of Blizzard executives, and go/no-go decisions on Blizzard games.

All that went away when Kotick engineered the buyout of Vivendi's shares. This also led to considerable corporate debt, which Activision-Blizzard has been servicing and paying down since.


Pretty much, yes. I’d say most wow fans say Burning Crusade was the high point and that was released in January 2007.


It was a slow death, one by a thousand papercuts, you can see the changes in Wow as an example.

Classic Wow and BC were not convenient, to enter a dungeon you had to travel to it, often you had to finish the quests in an area to unlock it, if someone wanted to come who hadn't done this yet you were compelled to help them, often these were quests that were beyond what one person could do. It was built around teamwork and collaboration, but at the cost of convenience.

Starting with WoTLK the story got better, animation and art got better but also a lot of odd convenience things started making their way into the game, and often at the expense of community. Most people at the time realized this but it wasn't strong enough at the time to erode the other things they liked. This was right after Activision merged/bought them and I would say they still had 80-90% of their core staff then.

After that was Cataclysm, which most players do not look fondly on. Though I would say that again they did well with storytelling and Art, but made poor gameplay choices. Most long time players quit playing then. Some really important leadership left during this time or right before it was released, often due to conflicting opinions about direction. I want to say microtransactions for vanity items were introduced at this time.

Then it was Mists of Pandaria, which I think they restructured their leadership quite a bit and put some of the right people in charge again. I think they were down to 60% of their core staff by this point. This one was mostly considered a success and is looked on as mostly good. It was around this point that Blizzard got really involved with the Chinese market or at least more involved. I want to say this was when they introduced services like buying a level boost and race change.

Warlord of Draenor - most players see this as one that had a ton of potential but never really grasped it, most new features were considered not fun, even more convenience things appeared again lowering camaraderie and need to work together. Eventually it was abandoned halfway, the story never finished and so it was scrapped for the next one that they hoped would be a more compelling theme/setting. The art got very good though, but it felt like we were getting less bang for the buck somehow. It was around this point that the game shifted focus to just help everyone level up to endgame content, making the old content barely matter anymore, which is a shame in a lot of ways.

Legion - was mostly considered good, they implemented an artifact system that acted a lot like a re-balance patch on the mechanics of play, this was where most of the praise came from. But even with that there were a lot of complaints, world quests felt like a chore, and so when people developed ways to get through it quickly they patched it to slow it down. The region Suramar got a lot of praise since it was a region that would change based on what quests you've done and I think going forward they should learn from that, but so far it hasn't felt that they've learned much.

Battle for Azeroth - This was a failure of an expansion, people didn't like the characters, the story direction or any of the new features introduced, the game balance was poor and the new artifact system didn't act like a patch like the previous expansion and instead was just unbalanced. It feels like they skipped to the next one fairly quicly. Probably 25% of core staff still remains at this point.

Bonus - Warcraf 3 Reforged - for those who are warcraft fans they like the lore, many grew up with the RTS and they were looking forward to this game. Blizzard failed to recognize the importance of branding here and instead looked at RTS as a dying genre. They overpromised, got pre-orders and then when it was time to bump it back to keep those promises they instead opted to not refund pre-orders and instead release a known inferior product that was different that what was promised and in fact different from what was pre-ordered. Honestly I wouldn't be shocked if more lawsuits came because of it. This was a final nail as a breach of trust for many fans who have felt continuously betrayed up to this point.

Shadowlands - it had good ideas but never lived up to any of them, people came back to try it out for a few months but it's mostly abandoned by players now. probably 10% of core staff still remains, it's a sinking ship.

So yeah it's been a failure 13 years in the making, that's just been exploding all at once the last couple of years. Blizzard has failed at branding, especially since joining activision. Blizzard used to be a company that made high quality computer games with an ethos of "it's done when it's done" and would go so far as to not release a game (starcraft ghost) because it wasn't good enough. That's not who they are anymore, they release things that aren't finished, that are outside of expectations or that are at a disconnect between what their fans want(like game balance over flashy story, community over convenience, or feeling like a part of the world instead of you being the center of it). I think they have some great developers who get it and have advised management many times about this kind of stuff, but a decade of not being listened to has made those with any clout to go off to other companies, often founding their own.


Convenience features are not the issue. Sure, there are people that don't like them but there are even more that would never bother playing without them.

It's a convergence of multiple factors that's destroying WoW, and not all off them is entirely in Activision Blizzards control. I cannot remember playing any games in recent history that had a community as toxic as WoWs to non veteran players.

Their effectively P2W Cashshop didn't help either, as it created the situation where people basically cannot find normal content groups anymore. Everything pushes you too buy gold and then get carried through relevant content for gear.


> not all off them is entirely in Activision Blizzards control. I cannot remember playing any games in recent history that had a community as toxic as WoWs to non veteran players.

I think community toxicity is very much Activision Blizzards's fault. There are no community guidelines anywhere, griefing is explicitly allowed (almost encouraged) in World PvP, game masters are few and far between. The report system is more often abused for griefing than used for actual community management.

It's very easy to look at FF14 to see that this needs to all start from the top. They have a very active community management team, and enforce very strict guidelines that go way beyond 'don't sexually harass other players'. They have a new player's guild where the guidelines are often discussed, with players taking on the roles as mentors who are supposed to drill these values into people. They have a very strict policy of never attacking someone for how they play the game, unless they are completely griefing (like a healer who never heals their party). Discussing damage or other performance numbers is grounds for a time out (outside dedicated groups for the hardest content).

Additionally, the relationship between the development team and the player base is much less confrontational. The development team is relatively candid on the games direction, they often explain choices they've made in satisfying ways, and seem to actively listen to player feedback. There is a famous example of a player asking about a quality of life feature in a Q&A, and the dev lead saying something along the lines of 'you know what? That makes sense', and delivering the feature in-game a few months later.

These are all things that require some serious investment in community management, and they pay off immensely in long-term good will and loyalty. Instead, Blizzard fired a few hundred people from QA and community management positions shortly before Battle for Azeroth.


That's a convincing argument, I never looked it like that but it does ring true.

The community still shouldn't be considered entirely on Activision Blizzard, but they haven't tried to really address the issue from their side either, so I can definitely see your point.


> P2W Cashshop

That is branded as a convenience feature though, it is very convenient to buy a maxlevel character or buy gold.


No game ever brands itself as P2W, so that's not really an argument.

The phrasing made it pretty clear that their issue was with the LFG tool and that you get ported to dungeons when using it to level.


But the introduction of that LFG tool (more specifically the raid finder) also coincides with the start of wow bleeding subscribers, and they haven't recovered since and instead just kept bleeding.

I don't think there is any evidence that there would be less players in wow if they never introduced that feature, on the contrary there are plenty of things pointing in the opposite direction.


But other games that have a Raid Finder are doing well and rapidly increasing their player numbers: Final Fantasy 14 has had the exact same system since the beginning, and it's definitely not hurting their growth. I think that, despite the hate it gets, LFR was far from WoW's main cause of downfall.


Yes. Especially with the release of WoW cataclysm


meanwhile if you watched their last BlizzCon(online) they were patting themselves on the back, saying how amazing they are and what a brilliant job they're all doing

it was very odd to watch indeed, they're completely divorced from reality


I said I once

Boeing : McDonnell Douglas :: Blizzard : Activision

Someone told me which of McDonell or Douglas was to blame in response but I forgot.


You’re completely right. I quit WoW for the same reason. Lucky, too because I had an unhealthy addiction to it and it kinda resolved itself with that.


Hearthstone Battlegrounds is amazing


This just reads like a person that doesn't like Blizzard games...

edit And at the risk of getting flagged for being brief and baity, I'll elaborate.

> WoW - convoluted imbalanced hot mess

The biggest MMO of all time, still even today.

> Diablo - repetitive. Diablo immortal.

It is a game about repetition. To call it repetitive is like saying baseball has too many bases.

> Warcraft III - buggy and laggy steaming pile of undelivered promises

The original W3 was a masterpiece. Their rerelease was a failure.

> Overwatch - imbalanced. Overwatch 2 with weird changes

A massive success. Not sure how you can call an entire game "imbalanced". You're just saying you don't like the way it's balanced.

> StarCraft - thrown in a ditch left to die

Yep

> HoTS - culled the competitive scene and super slow release cycle.

Mobas are a bad market and HoTS was a mediocre implementation of a Moba.

> Hearthstone - pay2win RNG fiesta

All CCGs.


> The biggest MMO of all time, still even today.

Honestly, for the first time in a long while there are questions about this. Subs of anyone who renewed around shadowlands launch are expiring and active player numbers are down. It's hard to know for sure since neither WoW or Square release numbers, but if ffxiv retains enough of the current surge of newbies, Endwalker will almost certainly have more players than 9.2


Did you miss that the OP is speaking about the current state of these games? Why even expand with an edit when you agree with more than half their points?


> Why even expand with an edit when you agree with more than half their points?

"Why even post if you think 50% of a person's reviews are bad"

???

Again, it reads like a person that doesn't actually play those games/genres and just wants to dogpile, as is evidenced especially by the Diablo and Hearthstone critiques.


For WoW your reply is a fallacy without addressing the original point.

For every other point outside of Overwatch, you justified, agreed or misunderstood the OP and defended its release vs. its current state.

You think your edit justified your original reply, where you attack the OP's credibility without addressing any of their points, I disagree.


> For every other point outside of Overwatch, you justified, agreed or misunderstood the OP and defended its release vs. its current state.

The points weren't critiques, is what I'm saying. Calling a game a "hot mess" doesn't actually say what's wrong with it. For WoW, as an example, it's inarguable that it's the biggest MMO of all time with a super active playerbase, even now. Saying "Well it's a hot mess" ignores all context and any legitimate argument made in reality. Just a proxy for "I don't like this game".

All of the points were just made up abstract complaints. They aren't actual gripes against the games, and moreso, the abstract complaints don't even defend the idea that "Blizzard has been going downhill." They only support my claim, which is that the person responding just doesn't like those games specifically, which has literally nothing to do with the quality of the games Blizzard released.


> For WoW, as an example, it's inarguable that it's the biggest MMO of all time with a super active playerbase, even now.

That isn't clear at all that, right now is very different from a month ago. Final fantasy 14 could possibly be larger and if it isn't will very likely dethrone wow as the biggest mmorpg in the near future.


I wonder what the total number of MMO players is. Maybe the genre is dying and WoW is accelerating its demise.


It depends what you define MMO as. If you consider it as traditional MMORPG, then the answer is clearly yes. WoW once had 12 million active players, now FFXIV is likely at 1.5 million, we're not sure if WoW is still above that, and ESO, SWTOR, GW2 and Runescape have a couple of hundred thousand each.

If you extend the definition a bit you can sort of fit stuff like big minecraft networks, Path of Exile, etc. into it. Which initially seems a bit silly, but then people general consider things like retail WoW, Guild Wars 1 to be MMOs despite most gameplay taking place in explicit instances, or world zones that are so heavily instanced that you'll only see a small number of other players. And the gameplay of Path of Exile is hardly as disparate from WoW as say Eve Online or Runescape.


"Asmongold on Blizzard Now Blaming Players for Being Too Toxic"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFqbfdcnNf8

i saw the tweet by Blizzard dev. He blamed the players for Blizzard internal problem. this whole mess is Blizzard's own problem and he is dragging the players into it.

he should just say due to internal problem. the patch for WOW 9.2 will be delay and leave it.

Blizzard have been going down hill for awhile. They treat their players like cash cow and try to milk them anyway that they can.

players = paying customers. if you can't cook the burger that a customer already pay for. your paying customer will leave. its simple as that.

bottom line: Blizzard treat their employees and customers like shit.


Stunning fall. For a while Blizzard could do no wrong. I feel that Bobby, the CEO, is very focused on results and only understands gamers third hand at this point.

That works for a while when the employees still care but once they stop caring there is no one to steer the faltering ship.


Maybe one factor is that among all Activision-Blizzard subsidiaries Blizzard makes the least amount of money, around 1/5 according to the Q1 profits. Both Activision Publishing and King make far more money by expanding into the most lucrative game sector: mobile games targeting China. The one mobile game that Blizzard is making in collaboration with NetEase (the infamous Diablo Immortal) is yet to be released. It is far more likely that CEO (and by extension company shareholders) wants to dedicate more resources to expanding into mobile market than all those old and dwindling franchises that Blizzard has.


There should be some mention of their fight against the EFF.

https://www.eff.org/cases/blizzard-v-bnetd


This lawsuit should generate more hate from all computer users, not just gamers. They screwed over not only their own users, but they hurt everyone on the planet. The ruling that they bought directly undermines the ability to develop interoperating software. Of any kind. For anything. Want your right to repair? Blizzard directly took some of that from you, and for that I hope they burn in hell.


Just another point of view here: all of the politics are irrelevant. I don't know anyone, nor does anyone I know know anyone who plays anything Blizzard produces right now.

Does Blizzard make any games that people want to play right now? I don't know. According to activeplayer.io[1] Overwatch's average monthly player count has never been higher, but of that demographic, I can't find anyone I know who plays it, so my visibility into this is narrow and limited. Clearly they're probably doing better than ever, and the loudest or most outspoken players just feel differently.

At the end of the day, I don't think anything else matters besides whether or not they're producing products people want to play.

[1]: https://activeplayer.io/overwatch/



I can't speak to the others, but Twitch as a heuristic is going to be extremely misleading for WoW, since it's centered almost purely around the competitive aspects (raids and M+), and almost in sync with every other part of the game going to shit, those two have grown in popularity with proper "e-sports" style coverage being introduced.

The WoW devs are still very good at making raid encounters and competitive dungeons. And they have literally zero competition in that area. So as long as they don't do anything catastrophic, they'll maintain that segment of the playerbase by default.


I was a very active Starcraft 2 player up until the Blitzchung controversy in late 2019. For me, Starcraft was and has been the most engaging RTS made, both to watch and play. I still haven’t found a satisfying replacement. RTS as a genre is getting dwarfed but other game types, but it has its niche.

I was engaged enough with the game that I was paying for seasonal War Chests—-essentially skins, to bump the tournament price pools for pros. These war chests had community funding goals that they consistently hit and exceeded for the time I was still tracking the game. After Blitzchung, I decided to just move on from the game.


Age of Empires 2 is still getting regular updates. There aren't too many RTS games nowadays but you should give AOE2 HD a try.


I have, thank you for the suggestion. It’s not bad. I was hopeful going into it, but it just doesn’t do it for me to the same degree SC2 did. Main reasons:

- Competitive games are a bit too long for me to watch. - Random map mode is a bit too RNG in the start with boars and sheep (I’m actually okay with this, but my buddy gets frustrated with it. If he loses interest then we can’t do 2v2s. - The base game mode (Random Map) is a bit too slow for me too. I’ve tried turbo mode, which is nice, but the economy/military doesn’t feel quite balanced. Empire wars is pretty nice, though. It’s basically a feudal age start. - Visually, a lot of units look the same. It’s hard to tell apart strategies and technology levels at a glance. This impacts both the playing and the esports aspects for me.

Overall it’s still a good game. I have it installed and play AIs from time to time. I don’t try to ladder though.


I think the scandals are more symptoms of the greater weakness within the company which may have a more permanent long term impact.

I remember playing WoW back in the day and how great their European support was. It was groundbreaking really, and it still sets the standard for what I want out of online support. I quit back during wrath of the lich king because I got old, and didn’t really follow things until they made Warcraft 3 Reforged which I preordered. When it turned out to be a bad game I again turned to Blizzards European support but the new experience was horrible by comparison. I mean, it worked just fine but I had to wait 48 hours where as previously it was only a few minutes for an online chat back before that sort or thing was more common.

So what happened in those 10ish years? Well, it turns out that all of the European supporters were laid off in France to cut costs during one of the company’s most profitable years.

That’s pretty normal in large companies, but it’s also a way to become just like everyone else instead of being outstanding, and that’s where they are heading isn’t it?

All the horrible sexual misconduct is another thing in the culture. It would be very criminal in my country and I hope the American courts handle it, but it’s wider effect speaks of a terrible working environment and that’s just not where you make the kind of games that made Blizzard famous in the first place.

It’s a little odd to see the shift in management as well, because it’s not like Sierra or Vivendi aren’t profit exhuming enterprise organisations, but somehow they realised that the “excellence” was what made Blizzard work and I guess Activision just didn’t get that memo.

I do think the politics of streamers and other influencers abandoning their games will have an impact though. But that’s just my personal opinion, and I’m not really a good source considering the only video game I play these days is blood bowl.


I'm playing WoW since 2008 and don't plan to stop. I don't like the direction that gameplay has taken, but I understand that's because of players changed and what worked in the past, will not work in the future, so I adapt. The only thing that bothers me is western propaganda (strong women everywhere, gay characters) which significantly increased in the last years, but that's a rather minor annoyance for me.


The bad behavior has been happening at Blizzard / Activision for a lot longer than three years. The only reason their reputation didn't collapse sooner is no one took the complaints seriously enough to investigate earlier.

(FWIW the Activision merger happened way back in late 2007. I don't know if the harassment predates that, but several old school Blizzard leaders are implicated.)


Blizzard’s reputation was tarnished the moment they sold out to Activision. Soon after, they starting using the Activision monetization methods, churning garbage “games”, etc.


Vivendi sold them to Activision. Blizzard itself had no say in the matter. Blizzard hasn't been its own master since soon after it was formed.


This is pedantic but didn't Activision buy Vivendi's game subsidiary completely? I assume Blizzard was the target asset there but I seem to remember that the whole company was purchased.


To be even more pedantic: there was a deal where Vivendi's games properties was merged into Activision, the combined entity was renamed Activision-Blizzard, and Vivendi got controlling interest in it.


Oh interesting. I didn't realize Vivendi was still involved. I thought they sold the games department to exit the industry but I guess it was the opposite.


That deal was in 2008. Five years later, in 2013, Kotick raised money to buy out Vivendi, and Vivendi exited the industry shortly thereafter.


I don’t think it collapsed in just 3 years. Pick your favorite “things take time” metaphor, but the company has been declining for a while. It’s just that the troubles build quietly for some time using the facade of the previously built reputation


I played WoW during late TBC and WOTLK (late 2000s), and then I came back for WoW Classic. The thing that disappointed me the most and ultimately made me leave for good is how toxic and bitter the community has become.

Long time players treat Blizzard like an ill relative they are morally obligated to take care of, instead of a company that is supposed to release enjoyable content. Some of the middle aged and even retired people I played with treated the game like a Facebook gossip group and had shockingly immature behaviour.


"Activision Blizzard, Inc. is an American video game holding company based in Santa Monica, California.

Revenue: 8.09 billion USD (2020)."

Who needs reputation?


Until I read this article, it didn't really dawn on me how truly bad it's gotten.

I've logged a lot of hours on Overwatch (and, previously, WoW), but this morning I uninstalled it and the Battle.net launcher for good. I'll find something else to play.


So, firstly, I deplore the behavior that's been exposed recently. I hope the people responsible and their leaders end up getting shut out of the industry, sued and/or criminally charged as appropriate.

But I wonder if those hoping aloud that this saga kills off Acti-Blizzard are indulging in wishful thinking.

Isn't it likely that this is yet another so-called PR "disaster" that the vast majority of customers won't be aware of, won't care about, and won't be willing to shed one of their hobbies over? Most Blizzard games are designed to be more than just games to their customers. They're built to be a part of your life. Blizzard is perhaps the best in the industry at this. They've done horrible things before, as documented in this article, but it hasn't really mattered. The users are hooked and business is booming.

"Blizzard's reputation collapsed." The question is, did it collapse among a significant number of their actual customers, or did it mostly collapse among a vocal minority of Twitter and Reddit users?


What constitutes a "significant number" of customers to your mind? Losing 5% of WoW customers in very mature recurring revenue business would be huge hit, and not something they can easily make up. Its not like kids today are beating down the doors to play a game that launched the year Ronald Reagan died.

Even customers without a heart will be upset when content deadlines slip because of labor turmoil caused by this mismanagement.

And, of course, people who are upset about this who do like Blizzard games or work for Blizzard don't want Blizzard to be killed off. They want things to change. And it is not like 'frat boy culture" or incompetent management benefits shareholders. So perhaps that change could come.


This may put some hurt on Blizzard, but all of the popular opinion/employee action has been ‘localized’ to Blizzard, not the company as a whole. It would be a hit for WoW to lose some percentage of players, but Blizzard on accounts for 24% of the companies income [1]. If the PR squad can keep it contained with Blizzard, then Activision and King can just go on making money. Maybe the company as a whole let’s Blizzard take the fall and slowly tries to re-establish the brand.

TL;DR — I don’t think this will have any major impacts to anyone in the long-term, but I can remain hopeful that at least some changes at Blizzard will benefit their employees.

1: www.investopedia.com/how-activision-blizzard-makes-money-4799286


The main thing people lost here is hope. Before they were angry with Blizzard products but hope remained that the next game, the next expansion or the next patch would fix things. But now hope is lost, the community views this event as the final confirmation that Blizzard is run by really shitty people and their releases will just continue to get worse instead of shaping up.


I don't think it's customers who need to be their main concern, but employees. I have to imagine that they are going to have to pay a pretty significant premium to recruit good people going forward.

Maybe related: See the criticism of their games in this thread. Potentially this is explained by blizzard having trouble employing people who can make them good games...


It would be unprecedented for one of the most profitable companies in the games industry to struggle to hire top talent.

The industry has always relied on a hiring pool that is willing to put up with untold amounts of bullshit for the privilege of working on games instead of CRUD apps.

I don't think this thread or any other social media is a good indicator of a company's ability to hire talent. Look at Google and Facebook. They get shit on constantly by online commentators, but they're doing pretty well and seem to have no problem hiring at market rates.


Facebook pays well above the typical market rate from what I can see, presumably as a result of that being the only way to attract the talent they want with their reputation.

Google has a great reputation as a great place to work with most people in the industry. I think that is actually responsible for a pretty decent portion of their success.

People in the game industry who are any good have the ability to work for any number of companies in the game industry, Blizzards worsening reputation is going to mean blizzard has to do more (probably pay more) than those other companies to attract them.


Anecdotal evidence: I've seen so many posts of WoW players swearing to log off for 1 day in protest of recent events. One whole day. Meanwhile posts of players cancelling their subscriptions are few and far between.


Players won’t cancel until they’ve tried and like an alternative. Final Fantasy 14 has had a massive surge of wow players so it’s not like players aren’t looking for alternatives. If they like other games I’d expect many cancellation in the coming months.


I spend more time at /r/wow than I probably should. Lots of people cancelling. Lots of people uninstalling if they've already unsubbed. Or at least claiming to. It's the internet so who knows if they're telling the truth. But there's lots of noise in that direction.

Hope the people who sometimes do population estimates in WoW will report soon. Would love to know if the actual data matches the noise.


That'll really teach Blizzard. Lower their server costs for one day. Ha!


> Blizzard is perhaps the best in the industry at this. They've done shitty things before, as documented in this article, but it hasn't really mattered. The users are hooked and business is booming.

Not as of now they are losing talents. Blizzard is notoriously in the industry for exploitively underpaying their employees.


I have a friend that previously worked in the industry fir several companies, including Blizzard and Activision proper. The stories are indiscernable. The industry itself treats enoloyees like chattle because there 10 people waiting fir the opportunity to be exploited by their favorite franchise.


> "Blizzard's reputation collapsed." The question is, did it collapse among a significant number of their actual customers, or did it mostly collapse among a vocal minority of Twitter and Reddit users?

I gave a hearty chuckle when I read that WoW players had staged and in-game protest as a result of this most recent fiasco. I can't think of a better way to signal that you have no intent take meaningful action.


Blizzard stopped making games and started making products at some point. That's all there is to it.


They went nuts over esports and it affected the games and everything else followed.


Shame really. The Warcraft universe is something I grew up with and with WoW met many long lasting friends.


I've been boycotting Activision (and thus Blizzard) since way before this, just because they ineptly handled the Guitar Hero brand and managed to kill it off commercially way too quickly. Looks like I dodged one hell of a bullet by doing so. Fuck ActivisionBlizzard


Blizzard once made games for $60.

Then inflation happened, and they had to pay their employees more.

But gamers are stuck in a "back in my day candy bars were a nickel" mindset, and refuse to pay more than $60.

So they had to hide the true cost of the games inside dark patterns and upsells. The end.


The gaming market is much more larger than it used to be 10 or 20 years ago. So Blizzard are selling way more games. Wow doesn't cost only $60, it's a subscription.

The argument that games should cost more than $60 because "inflation" is preposterous. By the same logic, personal computers should cost $100,000 because "inflation" since they cost $10,000 in the 80's.


Have wages among their demographic kept pace with inflation?


Productivity improved. With engines like Unity or Unreal, a single person can make a game in a few years.


Last good blizzard product was warcraft 3


Nah, the last good blizzard product was The Frozen Throne.


Nah the last good blizzard product was Starcraft 2.


Nah the last good blizzard product was diablo 2.


Nah, last good Blizzard product was The Lost Vikings.


Haha, good one. I actually had to look that one up.


What's a "caster"?


A commentator during the match. Or after the match, before the match, &c. Like Joe Buck or Bob Costas. The person talking about the game and usually interviewing the player(s).


From 'Broadcaster'


Thank you! I am now better-informed.


Financialization ruins everything. Who'd've fucking thought...


Financialization also created the thing.


They were greedy and put profit over game quality and were on down for a while. They haven't released a good game in years, and the WoW expansions have been a lot more miss than hit. But the harassment is what finished it for me. Shame.


Not making their games on steam is one of their biggest mistakes. The moment they make their catalogue available on steam, they are going to get a massive boost in revenue.




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