The Fall of Blizzard

I am referring to the video game entertainment company Blizzard.  I was weaned on Starcraft and Diablo 1 and 2.  So it is sad to me that despite cresting in their popularity, Blizzard is at an all time low in the quality of its games.

In my mind it started with Warcraft 3.  This was going to be an ambitious RPG (roleplaying game) with RTS (realtime strategy) elements.  Instead it turned into the same RTS game we have seen over and over again with the addition of a boring early game where you kill neutral monsters with your hero.  It also involved way too much micro for a real time game in my opinion.  Instead of being bold, it felt like the many RPG/RTS hybrids coming out around that time.  Finally, it spawned Defense of the Ancients which went on to fuel an entire genre of bland copies, including its own sequel which did nothing but recreate the original in a prettier engine.  I cannot forgive it for creating the insidious MOBA (empty acronym) genre.

World of Warcraft was actually pretty good.  It really polished off a lot of the rough edges of the MMORPG genre and opened it up to a lot of people.  While a lot of people argue about bad decisions by Blizzard regarding the game, you can’t argue that they have pioneered innovation in the genre.  Mostly that is because everyone else is copying it.  But accessible raiding, multiple difficulties, cross-server everything and automatic group assembly are now prerequisites of the genre first attempted by Blizzard.

Then we come to Starcraft 2.  What a failure in my eyes.  This is a near exact copy of the original.  The problem is that the RTS genre had moved on in the decade since the first game.  Gathering resources and constructing bases was completely outmoded and despite being relatively unpopular, the Myth franchise of games had won the battle over the future of RTS.  Games like World in Conflict had ditched all the boring clutter and said let them do battle.  The only redeeming feature here was the single player campaign was actually really well down.  Let’s not forget the awful decision to split it into three parts and the typical Blizzard prolonged delay between each part.

Last up is Diablo 3.  I played a ridiculous amount of Diablo 2 and it’s really the only action RPG that had any longevity for me.  So when Diablo 3 came out I was really excited.  Now there is a lot to like in Diablo 3.  The combat is the most invigorating in the genre and I like the attempt at removing all the extraneous character customization.  Your choices actually matter, though I think their ability balance was really bad for a long time.  Now they are balancing it via elemental affinities which is double-sided.  The problem is that like every recent Blizzard game, it is built on gambling system that is far too lean.  They literally make no money off of people yet the entire system seems built to keep people playing infinitely.  I have already written about this voluminously in another post, but it boils down to just being too random to have fun.

What is the future for Blizzard.  It seems to be derpy free to play games.  This is a huge company with a money printing machine called World of Warcraft and yet the only known games on the horizon are Hearthstone, a Magic the Gathering rip off, and Heroes of the Storm, a MOBA.  Both are run by small teams and enter genres already crowded while essentially offering not much new.  HotS at least might scrub away the “features” I hate about MOBAs, but I doubt the genre will ever appeal to me.

On the World of Wacraft front, they still can’t get expansions out fast enough.  Instead the final raid tier always goes on for way too long and they suffer with a massive subscriber hit that only partially comes back when the expansion hits.  Each expansion seems leaner on dungeon/raid content too.  Strangely, the game has run a very small staff for a game of its size and only recently sought to expand it.  It seems interesting to me that you pour resources into a “dying” game, but maybe it makes sense if they had always underinvested in WoW.

It just baffles me that Blizzard, a company that has a reputation giving them access to the best talent and the resources to back it up, is doing absolutely nothing.  Instead they are riding the F2P bandwagon with some trite, unimaginative concepts.  With Titan cancelled they have nothing else but the third part of Starcraft 2.  Where did all the money go?

 

 

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