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?
Oh it's easy to explain. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The case with a battery, seamless pairing, great battery life, reasonable EQ, and iconic style made them a smash hit.
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.
This rate was 30% since launch, right? How is it ever increasing? Apple recently reduced the fee for developers making less than $1M/year
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Isn't this also kind of what Apple has become in the post-Steve Jobs era?
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Okay. And? You still need innovation to make something like the M1.
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’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.
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 gets the bigger headline because of their claim to support environmentalism and human rights.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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)
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.
Profit is what keeps the company going. No company lasts long without some focus on profit.
> 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.
Hard to draw further conclusions, but it's definitely not a positive.
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-...
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first tend to be creative and empathetic, while the latter prefer cost cutting and lack of empathy.
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...
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.
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.
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.
Plenty of game developers do not support the CCP, yet have their games available there. Blizzard chose wrong.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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)
> 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.
They went out of their way to pick a side.
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.
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
That was in 2008, right? So their reputation has been going downhill for 13 years?
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...
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.
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.
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 :(
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That is branded as a convenience feature though, it is very convenient to buy a maxlevel character or buy gold.
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.
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.
it was very odd to watch indeed, they're completely divorced from reality
Boeing : McDonnell Douglas :: Blizzard : Activision
Someone told me which of McDonell or Douglas was to blame in response but I forgot.
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
> 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
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
"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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That works for a while when the employees still care but once they stop caring there is no one to steer the faltering ship.
Does Blizzard make any games that people want to play right now? I don't know. According to activeplayer.io 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.
and their long term viewership
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 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.
- 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 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.
(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.)
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.
Revenue: 8.09 billion USD (2020)."
Who needs reputation?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
Hope the people who sometimes do population estimates in WoW will report soon. Would love to know if the actual data matches the noise.
Not as of now they are losing talents. Blizzard is notoriously in the industry for exploitively underpaying their employees.
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.
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 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.