Hey all my fellow Redditors! First off, I'd like to take a moment to say you all rock. So much good content and community happens on this sub and it's been a great resource for me. I don't have a ton of time to play and/or study HOTS (being a dad and business owner) so you all are my lifeline. Now, I know a lot of us are feeling a bit down right now with the termination of Heroes pro play and all that may or may not mean to the game. I've been thinking a lot lately about all that led to this point and I thought I would give my thoughts, as a CEO myself, on how all this breaks down.
About me: I run an IT consulting firm in a major metro. I manage teams of technicians, admin staff, vendors, the works. We're no Blizzard/Activision, but I understand a thing or two about running a large business.
As I sat on the news when it first broke I had to think to myself: What is HOTS and what is the HGC? Those are critical questions that help us understand what's going on. At it's basic form HOTS is a product. Something for people to buy and enjoy. It's Software as a Service at its core which means it needs users. Users that pay. The HGC, at its basic level, is advertising. To a CEO or board of directors it's nothing more than a tool to increase user count. To boot, it's EXPENSIVE advertising. Yes, I realize, to us, it's much more than that, but to the folks in charge that's all it is.
TL;DR: It was about the money, it sucks, but it will make the game better.
Removing the HGC was a business decision.
The purpose of advertising, as you all know, is to bring in more money. In HOTS' case, that means more users. The HGC has been running for a while now (3 years, I think?) which means they've had plenty of time to not only measure the metrics, but tweak the formula (ESPN vs Facebook, for instance) enough that they can get a good idea of how successful it is at bringing in new blood. What do you do when any marketing campaign isn't returning on your investment? You kill it. If that causes some short-term user loss or backlash, then that's a calculated risk. They knew there would be a big blowup over this.
Here's the thing: When an investment is losing money it's a CEO's (or board's) responsibility to either make it work or make it go away. You have to realize that Blizzard is a company employing thousands of people. The CEO's job is to make sure that company stays healthy so their people can remain employed and the company can continue its mission. Sometimes that means cutting a product. Sometimes that means cutting staff. Yes, it really sucks for those that lose their jobs, but it's better than EVERYONE losing their job. Now add to this the fact that Activision is a publicly-traded company. They have shareholders and investors to answer to. If they don't do everything they can to turn a profit their stocks drop, which means the company is in a vulnerable place, again endangering the employment of everyone involved.
It's the "what's best for the many" situation that really is a manager's worst nightmare.
Was it fair/ethical how they broke the news?
Well, yes and no. Companies hide news like this from their employees all the time. It's actually critical they do so in many cases. Imagine you ran a game company and realized you had to fire 10% of your development team. How would their productivity, morale, and happiness be affected if you told them "We're letting you go in 6 months." You might as well just let them go on the spot because, at best they create problems with company morale. Then there are those that get malicious. You'd be surprised the damage a disgruntled employee can do if left with access to the company. That's why I feel, given how long it took Blizzard to announce the news, the decision came down from on high with little to no warning. I honestly believe it was an Activision mandate and I'd put money on the fact that Blizzard brass fought as much as they could. There's no doubt it was a really shitty December for the pros and casters. How Blizzard handles their termination going forward is going to be telling. You have to realize these people signed on via a contract that had a built-in expiration. While I can understand them feeling like they have a new contract coming, nothing is guaranteed, and the wise ones have a backup plan. Hell, it's not guaranteed I'll wake up tomorrow. That's why I have life insurance. I've never seen one of the contracts, but I doubt there's any obligation to pay severance or any other benefit… but Blizzard should. It's my firm belief that your people are everything and you take care of them as best as you can. Sometimes you have to cut staff, but it's bad business to just throw them out on their asses with nothing.
Will removing the HGC kill HOTS?
No way. Some players may uninstall, or stop paying money, and that's okay if that is how they really feel. Like I said above, that is a calculated risk. However, let's focus on the benefits (yes, I said benefits) of no HGC. First, having no pro scene to balance for means we can focus on the home user. The people who actually PLAY the game and love it get to have a game just for them. Keep in mind that over 60% of users play only Quick Match (and likely never watch HGC anyway). If I was faced with the choice of spending a ton of marketing money to create more development hours on something that didn't benefit over 60% of my user base, the choice becomes very simple. Plus, did we REALLY want to bring in all those other moba players? I, for one, played 1 week of DOTA2 before uninstalling it because of the community. HOTS is the only one I'll play, because of you guys. I honestly believe this will make the game better for everyone in the long run.
Please forgive me my typos and such. Usually I have an editor to go over stuff like this, but I'm not going to use her time for a gaming post on Reddit :p
© Post "Thoughts from a CEO about the last couple weeks" for game Heroes of the Storm.
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