There is a lot to be said about Blizzard, the scrappy little company founded more than 20 years ago because hey, why not? A bunch of guys liked video games, graduated from UCLA, and borrowed money from their grandmas. Eventually, Blizzard became the game company we know today, a powerhouse in the industry with no signs of slowing down. World of Warcraft is resting comfortably at around 10 million players, StarCraft is still a national sport in Korea, and Diablo III has pierced the hearts of gamers who would have never picked up a click-and-slash.
Today is my last day at WoW Insider, and you've probably already read the sappy goodbye [Editor's Note: Actually, it'll be up at 8pm EDT]. Whatever. We've still got columns to write, people. For my last Lawbringer, I want to share with you a little bit about what made this column special to me and why your support turned this column from an idea into something widely read, as well as my hopes for Blizzard in the future. I cannot thank you all enough for letting me have my soapbox and a place to rant.
Blizzard is a company at a very precarious place in its existence. Having already defined three genres, Blizzard is looking for the next play. Titan is out there, somewhere, but we've heard nothing about it and can barely call it a game. They say they're playing it. I believe them. I still want to see it.
Blizzard's biggest threat is not the monetary impact of losing subscriptions but the impact of bad press and a lack of interest. Here is where the expertise of the community staff comes in and metaphorically massages the playerbase, keeping you remembering what it feels like when you get your back rubbed. Mmmmm. World of Warcraft.
You can see this cropping up already -- the WoW Summer Challenges are a direct community push for directed game action. It's almost like a advertisement for game content. "Have you been to sunny Silithus lately? It's beautiful this time of year. Bring friends." These are the types of community events that allow other MMOS like RIFT, LotRO, and EVE to thrive. Engaging the community is absolutely necessary, and Blizzard is understanding that more now than ever.
My hopes for the future of Blizzard
I still fully believe the Battle.net revamp will be shown at some point this year. When? Who knows? I'm counting on this year to be the Year of the Social Battle.net. It'll connect to everything, just you wait. The game will be changed when Blizzard decides to do its own Steam-like overlay for all of its games, connecting each of the universes together with an independent Battle.net layer. It could and will be glorious.
Titan needs to do something unexpected to the genre. World of Warcraft's unexpected creed was that the MMO was not this thing for just the hardcore players. MMOs could become these accessible, expansive worlds that did not require (or shouldn't require) immense time commitments and punishing consequences. Gamers changed, and with them, Blizzard's philosophy on opening up the MMO to the masses.
What will Titan's unexpected aspect be? Honestly, I'm guessing some kind of persistence in the world that you might never have to leave. Invisible server architecture, real dynamic group encounters, content created with advanced tools that allow production on an unprecedented scale for an MMO. These are the things Titan must do to change the industry again, with a content release schedule that hits its mark every time.
Stay cool, Blizzard. Don't let the Annual Pass debacle stop you from another Annual Pass with fun perks. Yes, the reaction to the wording was fairly negative, but people know what to expect now, and you know how to word the damn thing better. Make a big joke about it, offer up something new for the next one, and keep me hooked. It doesn't take much.
I can't play StarCraft II for crap, but boy, do I love watching it being played. There are times when I log into League of Legends to play and end up watching games instead. Spectator sports have been ringing true to humanity since the dawn of time, and video games are no exception. These eSports are only going to grow, and Blizzard needs to be a responsible vanguard of them.
Blizzard, don't settle for shoddy tournaments and unprofessional behavior. Don't settle for anything less than exciting and fun and fair. Blizzard will be one of the key players that will turn American and European e-sports into the juggernaut it is in Asia. Support them for it.
I greatly appreciate the time and effort every single one of you has put in to comment and discuss the topics that I've brought up in this column. When I had first learned that my columns were being read and enjoyed by Blizzard employees, I never imagined it would be The Lawbringer that would be brought up as the noted piece. Everything on these pages was something that I was passionate about, something that I just wanted to share, and you all listened and responded. Thank you.
So, that's that. I hope you enjoyed it, because I sure did. If you've got any questions or comments, you can always find me on Twitter (which is where you can also find my email address). Blizzard, call me about getting Braggosh into the game; I promise that the licensing fees will be minimal. You've got a lot on your plate.
This column is for entertainment only; if you need legal advice, contact your lawyer. For comments or general questions about law or for The Lawbringer, contact Mat at firstname.lastname@example.org.