This portion addresses questions about the merger's affect on Blizzard's day-to-day.
So if most publishers control what their developers produce, does Activision control what Blizzard does?
No, since Activision is not Blizzard's publisher.
What about in areas like support?
When I was in support at Blizzard, the only negative change I noticed in my day-to-day work post-merger was that we suddenly had an influx of terrible A-B-themed benefits program posters hung up around the office. Things may have changed since I left, but my contacts have expressed mostly positive opinions about how things are running over there.
Won't the merger result in a dip in quality of Blizzard products? Has it already?
No and no. The merger gives Blizzard the opportunity to hire more employees to produce more content while maintaining the standard of quality that we expect from Blizzard. It also allows them to keep more employees due to the new financial backing provided by the merger, which affects things like benefits and payroll.
Blizzard has stated that you can't get quality content made just by throwing money at it, but money obviously helps sometimes.
Did Activision force Blizzard to release Wrath of the Lich King during the holiday season to maximize sales?
Let me answer this with an anecdote.
Blizzard's office walls are decorated with a lot of stuff -- concept art, murals, lifesize statues of characters, and posters with Blizzard's philosophies on art and design, etc. One of these posters talks about mistakes developers make, like pushing for a holiday release when the game's not done or polished enough.
It's my belief, which is backed up by Blizzard bigwigs, that if they didn't feel the expansion was worthy for release then they wouldn't have released it when it was released.
What's up with this money-making scheme of releasing Starcraft II as three games? This is because of their post-merger greed, right?
I've been hearing this a lot lately. Even our own Mike Schramm commented that the Blizzard that let people play Warcraft 2 on Battle.net for free isn't the same Blizzard that's releasing three Starcraft II games.
This really, really confuses me. Why would anyone familiar with Blizzard's work be put off by them releasing expansions? Because that's exactly what the last two Starcraft II titles will be -- expansions. One will add the Zerg campaign and one will add the Protoss campaign, as well as likely multiplayer additions and enhancements to the experience. The single-player campaign for each game will be incredibly robust as well, with tons of in-game engine cinematics and branching events.
Devs explained to me that they had three choices once they realized the depth of the Terran campaign:
- Shorten and pare down each campaign, resulting in campaigns about as long as Warcraft III, and release it as one game.
- Make the campaigns as robust as possible and release the Protoss and Zerg campaigns in expansions.
- Put everything in on game exactly how they want it and have Starcraft II come out in 2014.
They said the the choice was obvious, and I agree. It's about delivering the player the best experience.
Won't this merger result in a lot of stupid cross-promotions?
Probably. Activision isn't known for its advertising or marketing subtlety. We dealt with it a little at work -- Activision sent us a ton of copies of Guitar Hero Aerosmith that none of us really cared about (but hey, extra Rock Band guitar, right?), as well as posters in the office with Activision desperately trying to equate our flagship properties with their licensed crap. Yes, Activision, clearly Zeratul is on the same level as the main character from Kung Fu Panda.
The best I can hope for is that we'll never see World of Warcraft advertised on KFC combo meal boxes. Blizzard seems to consider the insulation of the WoW universe important, which is why we'll likely never see in-game advertising or "Lars Umlaut <Guitar Hero>" as an NPC.
What's your personal opinion on the merger?
From a corporate perspective, it makes sense and gives Blizzard access to more funding and assets. You can see that they've begun hiring a ton of designers and other WoW-relation positions, which can only increase the amount of content we get to experience and enjoy.
From a gamer's perspective, Activision is an IP-exploiting shovelware mill run by a doddering blowhard who doesn't play games and it hurts my heart to see Blizzard's name attached to them.
On the bright side, if you look at your Wrath box, you won't see Activision's logo on it anywhere. That's more than just literal -- it's symbolic, and I hope that it stays that way for a long, long time.
If you have any specific questions about the merger that you think I can answer, you're more than welcome to email me at sacco [at] wowinsider dot com and I'll compile the questions and responses in a followup article.