Diablo Creators Say the “Old Blizzard is Gone,” Hearthstone Hong Kong Bannings “Bungled”

Nov 18
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It’s hard to shake the feeling that Blizzard isn’t the same company it once was. There’s clearly still a lot of talented folks working there, but the kind of ground-breaking creativity the studio was once known for has largely disappeared. At this year’s BlizzCon, a number of new projects were announced, but they were all sequels or expansions designed to exploit existing franchises (Diablo IV, Overwatch 2, WoW: Shadowlands). Blizzard has also shown an ugly authoritarian side recently, banning several players for speaking up in support of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.

Well, fans aren’t the only ones feeling something is amiss with Blizzard – Diablo creators David Brevik, Erich Schaefer, and Max Schaefer also feel something is off, with Brevik stating the company has “completely changed.’ Max Schaefer went into a bit more detail about what was different now…

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The old Blizzard is gone. When we quit, there was like 180 employees total. There's thousands now. The whole empire is different, and Activision didn't have any influence. […] Now [Blizzard is] a video game empire that has to appease shareholders and all that sort of stuff. You can't be that big and be as free-wheeling as we were, and one of the reasons we left was to be more self-deterministic and not be beholden to some monstrous organization.

Schaefer also touched on the controversial Hearthstone bannings, saying that Blizzard “bungled” the situation, but that it was, ultimately, a no-win situation.

Sometimes you wake up in the morning and you're in a no win situation, and I think that, to some extent, that's what happened with [Blizzard]. There was no clean way out. And I think they kind of bungled it, obviously, but there was no way they were getting through that without some controversy. Because of the structure of Blizzard now they think with their wallets first, and I think that kind of led the decision making more than anything, and they'd maybe underestimated what people's perception of that would be.

Here’s hoping Blizzard finds a better way of addressing their “no-win situation” in the future. As for the overall direction of the studio, make no mistake, Blizzard is still going to put out good, polished games, but the company simply isn’t the innovation leader it once was. That’s unfortunate, but perhaps we’ll see more talented folks like David Brevik, Erich Schaefer, and Max Schaefer break away to work on their own projects (they’re behind the well-received free-to-play dungeon crawler Path of Exile). I believe the Blizzard spirit will live on in some form.

What do you think? Is the Blizzard of old truly gone or can that creative spark be reignited?

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