Recent news from the Activision/Blizzard world is that they finally are separating from Viviendi. Obviously, the damage has already been done but the real question is what will happen here after?
For myself, I hope that Blizzard further splits from Activision. It’s one of the necessary things I believe needs to occur for fans to re-discover their respect for Blizzard. Although the PR response from the conglomerate has been that Blizzard acted independently from its parent company, you still have to question if, indeed, that was the case. It’s pretty rare for companies in merger/acquisitions to have 100% autonomy. I’m not sure how much real autonomy Blizzard and the people within realized that they had but the company has to further distance itself from Activision to remain competitive. Part of Activison’s problem is that they’ve become far too corporate and the internal company is poisonous with Bobby Kotick leading a bunch of dispassionate MBAs from companies like Coca Cola rather than an army of gamers.
However, I think that Blizzard also needs to do a massive lay off, especially with their product teams and technology teams. Without question, Blizzard has lost a lot of their edge over the years both on the innovation end as well as producing quality technology. Take for instance how recent games like Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 still require server reboots on Tuesdays. The so-called server maintenance requires 8 hours of downtime. These days, it’s pretty rare to see companies with such a huge user base and the income of a Blizzard to have such poor downtime records. Also, why require 8 hours of downtime? Are they using Windows 2000 servers?
I know there are people who defend Blizzard but let’s be truthful about them. Like any large company, they got lazy. They believed that their shit don’t stink. But it does in a very wretched manner. As much as I love their games, I do feel that their capability is far below expectations. The recent loss in subscribers for World of Warcraft demonstrates how out of touch they are with their user base. Yet they feel that small fixes like pushing an in game store in World of Warcraft will boost their economy with pricey, useless vanity items.
It’s a real shame to me because I once really respected Blizzard. I believe the vast majority of us who have been playing their games felt that at their peak, they could do no wrong. However, their peak was back in 2001 or so and now they’re on a severe decline. Companies that face decadence like this must purge themselves of the people who let themselves slowly decay. People like Ghostcrawler who believes that “random loot has traditionally worked for this company in the past.” Maybe customers get tired of the dangling carrot and no longer find the ridiculous grinds all that satisfactory. Maybe instead of looking at what might’ve worked in the past to start figuring out what people want in the future.
In reality though, I doubt much will change. Definitely, little to nothing will change in the short run. If anything, I feel that the Blizzard side will probably remain the same and behave in a conservative manner until the dust settles as people probably don’t want to cause a shit storm in the company and somehow get labeled as a corporate politician. But as I must reiterate, a shit storm needs to happen inside of Blizzard. Although games like Neverwinter Nights, Shadowrun, etc. have yet to make their marks, the thing is that Kickstarter programs are providing opportunities for game studios to move sideways and dodge the traditional studio-publisher relationship and that is a clear threat to ancient dying companies like EA and Activision. When these new smaller, hungry and agile companies around, slow-as-snails-in-shit-molasses companies like EA and Activision have numerous threats from all sides of the equation. These smaller groups might not even want to be bought out since many of the people running them were former heads of companies that were swallowed and internally fucked by EA and Activision.
Either way, we’ll have to see how this plays out. Seeing all the poor and desperate decision making from Activision/Blizzard, I have very little hope in the near future for an internal renaissance to occur. It’ll take the efforts of someone like a Marissa Meyer in restructuring Yahoo to do what’s necessary to revitalize Blizzard and I don’t think there’s many people at this time who are capable nor willing to do that.