Mike Morhaime, President and CEO of Blizzard Entertainment.
J. Allen Brack, President. Just President, of Blizzard Entertainment.
Sometimes parent companies (e.g. Activision-Blizzard) will have an influence on their subsidiaries (e.g. Blizzard Entertainment) and sometimes they won't.
A little history: Blizzard Entertainment was acquired by Vivendi Games in 1994. In 2008 Viviendi Games, including subsidiary Blizzard Ent., merged with Activision creating a new company, Activision Blizzard, with Vivendi Games remaining as a parent company. In 2013, Activision Blizzard purchased 429 million shares from Vivendi; this deal resulted in the independence of Activision-Blizzard as the majority of shares remaining were in the hands of public shareholders.
Today, Activision Blizzard is a huuuuge gaming company with key subsidiary companies including Activision, Blizzard Ent., King, Major League Gaming, and Activision Blizzard Studios.
All that being said, Blizzard has always retained both its autonomy and corporate leadership. These mergers and acquisitions have, without fail, allowed Blizzard to operate independently of its parent company with its own CEO. Until now..
Mike Morhaime stepped down on October 3 "effective immediately" with J, Allen Brack being promoted as the new President. While Morhaime could have certainly resigned for personal reasons… Given what we know about the decisions Blizzard has recently made, I simply think it's far more likely that he was losing control and forced out. This is a man that still believed in making the best game possible.
"Our original mission and values consisted of four simple words that formed our foundation 'we make great games.' We crafted that statement before we had even released our first game, but we were committed to living up to it."
Look at the months leading up to and, just now, the 2.5 months since his departure:
- BFA was a rushed expansion, forced to release in August, because of Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 release in October. It is still being marketed on the Blizzard launcher.
- A joke of a Blizzcon. The worst in recent memory for a variety of reasons. "Do you not have phones?"
- Blizzard's PR becoming an absolute joke. Social media, YouTube, etc have started censoring anything and everything that wasn't praising the product. This includes an enormous amount of downvotes on YouTube.
- HGC and Heroes of the Dorm being cancelled – not profitable enough?
- Furthermore, HotS developers being moved to newer titles. Is there really that much of a shortage of developers in the market that they can't make new hires? Or does being a small, indie company with minimal resources prevent the hiring of new personnel?
- World of Warcraft, a game that Blizzard has grown with love and care, is quickly becoming just another profit-loss statement. It is being hammered, they're trying to bleed out every last dollar possible without regard the game's quality.
- Two new shop mounts, one tied to a six-month subscription. You can't quit if you buy the mount.
- Nine shop items being retired in an effort to boost end of year revenue.
- Speculation of a development shift towards future content rather than improving existing content.
- Just look at how rushed 8.1 was despite it taking 4 months! It was completely full of undocumented changes of all types. My Vanquisher title is still missing ffs. Numerous class design problems. But a new Warfront! /s
- Design decisions are now aimed at forcing players to spend more time in game to maintain relevancy in collecting or PvE power.
- Many of the game's systems, including combat gameplay and class design, have become oversimplified in an effort to attract new players. This is hallmark of J. Allen Brack…
Yes, J. Allen Brack, he is that guy that told us, the WoW playerbase, on a stage at Blizzcon
He is now the President of Blizzard Entertainment. It was obvious that he was shut-down after those comments, as we never saw him publicly disparage the classic community again. If you look at the numerous articles and interviews since the classic announcement last year, you will notice he talks about this purely from an economical standpoint. Not once does he ever offer and apology to the community for his smug reaction, and never once does he ever say anything on a positive note regarding his own feels for the game.
This shouldn't come as a surprise though. Brack's philosophy in game design is to oversimplify so the masses won't be deterred by the game being too hard or too complex. Does that sound familiar to you with the changes to modern WoW? Class design and pruning? Imagine how he feels about the vanilla experience…
offers a good history lesson on Brack and his tenure with Star Wars Galaxies (SWG). In short though, SWG was a sandbox MMO with complex systems and challenging content. For example, I think it took around 4 months for the first player to obtain Jedi. It was rare and not easy to obtain. It was also extreeeeemely overpowered. The combat system was unique to SWG and almost universally celebrated. It had a fiercely loyal playerbase.
When Brack arrived at launch as a producer that oversaw development, he partitioned the development team into two groups, current content and future expansions. With the current content team under his control, the game was massively simplified and the playerbase simply abandoned it because their game was taken away from them.
Specifically, Brack designed and implemented the Combat Upgrade (CU) which was a completely unnecessary overhaul of the combat system from something unique and amazing to the same copy+paste combat system every other game at the time used. Why? He deemed it as a barrier for entry. (He also designed the NGE for your SWG guys). Additionally, the way he "fixed" the Jedi problem was to make it easily available to everyone, including new players.
Whew. Okay, I'm done.
How much influence does Activision-Blizzard have over Blizzard Entertainment now?
How much does J. Allen Brack care about World of Warcraft? Is Brack forcing his personal biases in game design onto the WoW dev team?
How far is WoW going to have to fall? How many subscribers will have to be chased away before the game is placed back into the hands of management that cares more about game quality than the next shareholders meeting?
© Post "Activision now runs Blizzard Entertainment. There is no longer a CEO for Blizzard Ent. How did we miss this guys?" for game World of Warcraft.
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