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July 22, 2021

Blizzard Is Collapsing! New BRUTAL Report On Warcraft Failures Highlight Dysfunction

TheQuartering [7/22/2021]

Blizzard is sinking.

According to BNNBoomerang:

Blizzard Entertainment’s disastrous remake of the classic video game Warcraft III last year was the result of mismanagement and financial pressures, according to newly revealed documents and people with knowledge of the failed launch. The release also reflected Blizzard’s significant cultural changes in recent years, as corporate owner  Activision Blizzard Inc. has pushed the developer to cut costs and prioritize its biggest titles.

Warcraft III: Reforged was a long-awaited reimagining of one of Blizzard’s most popular games. Blizzard President J. Allen Brack called the original title “monumentally important” when Reforged was announced in 2018. The company promised “over four hours of updated in-game cutscenes and re-recorded voice-overs.” But the project was never a priority for the company, in part because a remaster of an old strategy game had little chance of becoming the type of billion-dollar product that Activision wanted, according to the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak on company matters. With Blizzard pressured to focus on its biggest franchises, Warcraft III: Reforged couldn’t get the ambitious budget that its leaders wanted.

When Warcraft III: Reforged was released on Jan. 28, 2020, it was widely panned, earning a 59 of 100 on the review aggregation website Metacritic. The game was buggy and missing the components that Blizzard had promised earlier, including the updated cutscenes — sequences that develop the story line but aren’t part of game play —  and re-recorded voice-overs. The remake even lacked features that the original Warcraft III had contained in 2002, such as a “ladder” system that ranked competitive players. Blizzard also had disabled the original version of the game on its digital platform, so the inferior remake was the only version that fans could easily play.

In the weeks after launch, Blizzard promised to update the game and add some of those features over time, but 18 months later, they are still nowhere to be found.

“Warcraft III: Reforged not only felt like a disappointing remaster, but it actually made the online experience of the original game worse for fans who have been playing it continuously for almost 20 years,” said Wes Fenlon, an editor for the website PC Gamer. “Five years ago, I think Blizzard was one of the few big game companies that could still cast itself as being your friend, but I think that innocent trust is gone now.”

At the time, the company apologized for the launch and said it had chosen to backtrack on updating the cinematics because “we did not want the in-game cutscenes to steer too far from the original game.” But documentation produced after its release, as well as interviews with 11 people who worked on or close to the game, indicate that Reforged was actually rescoped due to budget cuts and internal arguments over the game’s direction.

In a statement, an Activision Blizzard spokesman said the company offered “no-questions-asked refunds” to Warcraft III: Reforged owners. “Blizzard prides itself on releasing games when they’re ready—gameplay and quality come first and foremost—and our goal is always to do right by our community,” the spokesman said. “The central issue with Warcraft III: Reforged was an early, unclear vision and misalignment about whether the game was a remaster or a remake. This led to other challenges with the scope and features of the game, and communication on the team, with leadership and beyond, which all snowballed closer to launch. Developers across Blizzard pitched in to help, but ultimately bug fixing and other tasks related to the end of development couldn’t correct the more fundamental issues.”

The spokesman added that as a result of the negative reactions to Warcraft III: Reforged, the upcoming Diablo II remake, planned for release in September, will be “a pure remaster, faithful to the art, gameplay, and cinematics of the original game.”

Since its founding in 1991, Blizzard has grown into one of the biggest U.S.-based game publishers by releasing critically acclaimed, lucrative titles. Franchises such as Diablo and Overwatch have helped Activision Blizzard reach US$8 billion in revenue last year.

Blizzard’s success, under co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer Mike Morhaime, was a product of its high standards for quality and willingness to delay games until they were ready. But Activision, which absorbed Blizzard in 2007 and had left it largely to operate independently, has been taking a bigger role in Blizzard’s operations recently, putting financial pressures on the developer.

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