A new report published last night on Kotaku expanded on previous claims from inside sources that Blizzard had been cutting development costs. As it turns out, this has been a company-wide policy for the entire year, particularly after a speech by the new Chief Financial Officer Amrita Ahuja (who joined Blizzard in March 2018 after many years at Activision) reportedly told every team to reduce spending.
Furthermore, several former and current Blizzard employees anonymously told Kotaku that the finance group is now leading strategic decisions for the first time in the company's history.
Over the course of the last year, Blizzard has been trying very actively to find creative ways to cut costs that won’t draw negative press attention. That speech from Amrita about cutting costs, that wasn’t a one-time thing. We were told to cut costs on a monthly basis.
Finance in general in Blizzard has been one of these invisible functions that’s there but doesn’t have a say. Now they’re suddenly in meetings.
A lot of decisions now are being driven by business folks, marketing and finance folks. There’s a real struggle now between developers and the business people. Strategic decisions are being driven by the finance group.
Blizzard is a special place. A lot of people are worried about the future of Blizzard, if the Activision method seeps in more, what that’s going to become.
Needless to say, it feels strange to write an article on this topic about one of the most successful game developers in the history of the industry, thanks to global hits like the Warcraft (World of Warcraft in particular), Starcraft, and Diablo series as well as the new IP Overwatch.
Then again, the company headquartered in Irvine, California did recently come under fire for a couple of major missteps. The first one was related to the loot box system used in Overwatch, which albeit cosmetic-only was outlawed in certain countries such as Belgium.
More recently, there was the whole Diablo Immortal fiasco after the big BlizzCon 2018 announcement turned out to be a mobile game. Some fans felt like that showcased a different, wholly revenue-driven Blizzard development schedule, and this latest report certainly isn't going to assuage those concerns.
As a reminder, Blizzard Entertainment merged with Activision in 2008. At that time, it was a subsidiary of Vivendi Games; Vivendi's influence ended in July 2013, when Activision Blizzard purchased 429 million of their shares and thus became an independent company.