• Hey, guest user. Hope you're enjoying NeoGAF! Have you considered registering for an account? Come join us and add your take to the daily discourse.
  • The Politics forum has been nuked. Please do not bring political discussion to the rest of the site, or you will be removed. Thanks.

After A Terrible 2019, Blizzard Is Going All-In At BlizzCon

Bullet Club

Member
Oct 24, 2017
11,895
29,085
1,250
After A Terrible 2019, Blizzard Is Going All-In At BlizzCon

The plan was always to wait for BlizzCon. In November of 2018, after a PR blow-up surrounding the ill-advised announcement of the mobile game Diablo Immortal, Blizzard’s staff knew that they just needed to make it through the next year without incident. If they could, they’d be able to win fans back with a suite of killer announcements. Rumours of upcoming layoffs were making employees anxious, and the suits over at the Activision end of the company had been exerting their influence more. But there was still hope that the company’s annual convention near the end of 2019 could bring great things.

Then 2019 actually happened, culminating in an international debacle that saw Democrats and Republicans unite to condemn a video game company—possibly a historical first. On October 6, Hearthstone pro player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai called for Hong Kong’s sovereignty from China on a Blizzard stream, saying, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age.” Blizzard suspended Ng Wai for a year, stripped his prize money, and cut ties with the casters involved, triggering widespread outrage.

Fans and critics questioned whether Blizzard’s massive financial interests in China—which is responsible for a large chunk of Hearthstone’s revenue, according to people who have worked there—led the company to punish a player for expressing free speech. Blizzard later walked back the punishment, but that wasn’t enough to quell the anger.

With BlizzCon starting this Friday in Anaheim, California, it’s fair to wonder how people will react. Since last year, Blizzard has been planning to go all-in on this BlizzCon, with announcements prepared for the company’s two huge upcoming games—code-name Fenris (Diablo IV), and code-name Calypso (Overwatch 2, or whatever it winds up being called)—as well as other expansions, remasters, and surprises. Now, there’s a sense of foreboding hanging over the event.

Will there be massive protests at the Anaheim Convention Centre? Will Twitch streams be full of spammed messages about the liberation of Hong Kong? Will fan Q&As be dominated by questions about Blizzard’s financial dependence on an authoritarian government? Will the announcements of highly anticipated games help Blizzard’s reputation recover?

When asked about plans and concerns surrounding this year’s BlizzCon, a Blizzard spokesperson sent over the following statement:
BlizzCon has always been a place where we celebrate the passion and diversity of the Blizzard community, where we encourage and support the many creative and thoughtful ways attendees share and reflect their views and interests—and this year will be no different. We welcome open, constructive, and civil discussion of different perspectives at the show, and we do still plan to have fan Q&A at certain panels as we normally do.
The safety and security of our attendees is and has always been a top priority, and every year we iterate with new measures to bring our event even more up-to-date while doing everything we can to create a comfortable environment for everyone.
Everyone at Blizzard has been working very hard in the lead-up to BlizzCon. We appreciate all of the interest in learning about our potential plans for the show—we know we’re fortunate that people care enough about our games to actively seek out the latest details—and we’re all very much looking forward to seeing everyone and sharing our latest news.
It’s not that Blizzard’s recent problems started with Hong Kong. The last couple of years have been rough for Blizzard. The 28-year-old company has long been one of the most beloved companies in gaming thanks to top-notch franchises like Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo.

In May of 2016, Blizzard released Overwatch—a smash hit both critically and commercially, but to this day still Blizzard’s most recent new game. A thin schedule over the following two years led to soft revenue numbers, much to the dismay of the Activision executives who oversee both companies. (Blizzard is part of a giant public company called Activision Blizzard; the name implies partnership, but Activision’s board is in charge of the company.)

By the beginning of 2018, the message to Blizzard staff was clear: Make more games, but cut costs. Activision began taking a greater role in operations at Blizzard, installing executives across publishing and other departments.

The company started incubating a number of mobile games, spurred in part by a new Activision mandate to put more of their franchises on phones. In October of 2018, Blizzard founder and CEO Mike Morhaime said he was retiring, with company veteran J. Allen Brack stepping up to take his place. Notably, he’d be president, not CEO—a less powerful title and a sign of Blizzard’s reduced autonomy.

In February of this year, Activision Blizzard laid off over 800 employees across all of its offices, including Blizzard, which was hit particularly hard in publishing and other support departments. The layoffs enraged many of those who spoke to Kotaku in the days and weeks that followed, and enraged Blizzard staff further when the company put up job listings for some of the roles it had eliminated.

The catch: some of those roles were being combined, putting a single person in charge of what had previously been the responsibilities of two or three people. It was a bad look that infuriated some former Blizzard employees.

In May, Blizzard cancelled a StarCraft first-person shooter that was code-named Ares as well as an unannounced mobile game. Blizzard’s goal, as we reported, was to put those resources into Diablo IV and Overwatch 2, both of which will finally be revealed this week.

What hasn’t yet been reported is that a number of veteran Blizzard developers departed in the wake of those cancelations, including Dustin Browder, formerly director of Heroes of the Storm and lead designer of StarCraft II, Eric Dodd, formerly director of Hearthstone, and Jason Chayes, formerly production director of Hearthstone. There’s been a steady trickle of staff departures all year. When asked, a Blizzard spokesperson said: “Yes, Eric, Dustin, and Jason made the decision to move on from Blizzard a few months ago.

They have been and always will be considered members of the Blizzard family, and we’ve loved working with them over the years. We wish them the best for the future. That said, we want to make sure it’s clear that development of Blizzard games has always been a collaborative effort between many talented, longstanding teammates here continuing that good work.”

October brought the Hong Kong ban, an issue so testy that the U.S. government got involved, with a group of Republican and Democrat congresspeople submitting a letter to Activision Blizzard “to express our deep concern” with how the publisher had handled things. “This decision is particularly concerning in light of the Chinese government’s growing appetite for pressuring American businesses to help stifle free speech,” the letter said.

In other words, 2019 has been bad for Blizzard’s public perception. The big question is, can BlizzCon turn things around? On Saturday, esports journalist Rod “Slasher” Breslau reported a bunch of Overwatch 2 details on ESPN that have already excited fans—Hero talents! New modes! Items!—and reactions have been uniformly positive.

Funny enough, the leak was the result of Blizzard accidentally emailing too many people, Breslau told me. “Blizzard sent out some of their most sensitive info on OW2 in a floor plan document sent to staff and non-employee freelancers working the floor at BlizzCon,” he said. “Shortly after sending and noticing their mess up, they sent a new email without the sensitive info included, saying ‘a typo has been fixed,’ just about metaphorically summing up everything that’s gone wrong for Blizzard this year.”

Those self-inflicted wounds aside, fan response to this Overwatch 2 leak suggest that the prospect of cool new games could drown out the fan anger when BlizzCon starts this Friday. Combine this with Diablo IV, a newly remastered version of Diablo II, a new World of Warcraft expansion, and other announcements—could a surprise release of Warcraft 3 Reforged be in the works?—and perhaps by Sunday, Blizzard fans will have completely forgotten about Hong Kong.

I asked three Blizzard employees what they thought about all this, and they all seemed relaxed about the prospect of protests and Twitch spam—a small sample size, granted, but their consensus was that at the end of the day, the big game reveals will win. New entries in two of the biggest franchises on the planet will likely make gamers forget about all of this controversy—unless a Q&A goes particularly awry and turns into the year’s most viral meme.

Source: Kotaku
 
  • Like
Reactions: -Arcadia-

Dthomp

Member
Sep 17, 2005
4,290
2,442
1,885
Somewhere Cold
I said this before, the only people who are going to be crying anymore after the announcements are the types that weren't buying their shit anyways. Move on, find something else to whine about. Gamers will rejoice when they get them some Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4 info. At the end of the day, that's what gamers want, good games.
 
Feb 16, 2014
919
1,321
915
Earth
Blizzard gonna fuck up Diablo 4. I just know it. Diablo 2 is still my jam, I still play it to this day. Diablo 3 sucks donkey dick. I tried to get into it, but it just doesn’t have the replay value (to me) that Diablo 2 has. Maybe it’s the severe lack of mods for Diablo 3. Something that made Diablo 2 so enjoyable were all the mods that it had.
 
Jan 11, 2019
13,595
49,531
1,320
Tokyo, Japan
 

ExpandKong

Banned
Jan 9, 2018
5,239
14,683
825
I said this before, the only people who are going to be crying anymore after the announcements are the types that weren't buying their shit anyways. Move on, find something else to whine about. Gamers will rejoice when they get them some Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4 info. At the end of the day, that's what gamers want, good games.

Just because you don’t have principles doesn’t mean nobody else does.

The rumors about diablo 4 and overwatch 2 ain’t exactly encouraging either.
 

Dargor

Member
Sep 5, 2013
2,486
1,656
670
Man, I dont think blizzard can show something that would actually get my money back, they haven't for years, they need to first apologise for all the horrible shit they have done first, both to their games and their fanbase.

But nevertheless, this year's blizzcon is on my radar, not for the reasons they want, but its there :messenger_tears_of_joy:
 

dirthead

Banned
Jul 24, 2018
2,080
1,831
575
Blizzard gonna fuck up Diablo 4. I just know it. Diablo 2 is still my jam, I still play it to this day. Diablo 3 sucks donkey dick. I tried to get into it, but it just doesn’t have the replay value (to me) that Diablo 2 has. Maybe it’s the severe lack of mods for Diablo 3. Something that made Diablo 2 so enjoyable were all the mods that it had.

D3's gameplay fundamentals were as solid as fuck. It actually PLAYS way better than D2 ever dreamed of playing.

The problem is that all the loot systems were just complete dog shit.
 

Lanrutcon

Member
Feb 19, 2014
11,320
6,463
770
Irrelevant
If Blizzard are still as out of touch as they were last year, then "going all in" is going to be a hilarious shitshow that will dominate the internet for weeks to come.

Hopefully someone with some common sense is in charge of this year's presentations.
 
Oct 15, 2019
774
1,473
390
New York
I said this before, the only people who are going to be crying anymore after the announcements are the types that weren't buying their shit anyways. Move on, find something else to whine about. Gamers will rejoice when they get them some Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4 info. At the end of the day, that's what gamers want, good games.
In general I agree with you. What it should come down to at the end of the day is making good games. That said, I personally refuse to buy from a company willing to restrict my freedoms to comply with an authoritarian state. It sets a bad precedent I want no part in promoting. Is it gonna become the norm regardless, probably, but at least I can say I wasn't complicit in it.
 
Sep 23, 2018
143
186
260
Of course they're going all-in after the fact the Blizzard brand is going down the shitter (has been for past 10 years maybe?) and last year was just fucking awful.

Most important is whether or not these titles are of any quality and hopefully people will think about that before getting hyped about just seeing a title name popup in a reveal trailer.
 
Last edited:

Kagey K

Member
Dec 18, 2013
11,925
18,127
995
After reading the OP I’d be interested in seeing what they think a good year for Blizzard is?

If this is a terrible year, imagine what they can get away with in the future.
 

KorbinDallas

Member
Oct 8, 2019
281
213
255
By the beginning of 2018, the message to Blizzard staff was clear: Make more games, but cut costs. Activision began taking a greater role in operations at Blizzard, installing executives across publishing and other departments.
Someone said it right in the other Blizz thread: Blizz is just basically Activision now. They got Biowared.

Obligatory, screw Kotaku.

Also, looking forward to Blizzcon as well. I don't think it will be a dumpster fire. Reading above they have at least a few announcements that will generate some battle.net downloads. If I didn't buy FF14 xpac last week, I may be tempted to play Classic some more.
 

Fuz

Member
Jun 8, 2009
9,621
12,058
1,415
Cagliari, Italy
D3's gameplay fundamentals were as solid as fuck. It actually PLAYS way better than D2 ever dreamed of playing.

The problem is that all the loot systems were just complete dog shit.
Agree. It did play pretty nicely. The problem were the loot system, the money AH, the always online and the shitty wow-cartoony art direction. But gameplay wise, it was pretty good.
In any case, it's pretty stupid that most people think of it as a failure from blizz. I agree it was disappointing, but it sold more than 10M copies in the first month, IIRC. That's what you call a failure now?

I'd like to see a FPs Diablo to be honest
Me too! Just because I want to see a live lynching on the Blizzcon stage.
 
Last edited:
Jan 16, 2011
1,976
646
785
Blizzard fucked up. Years of legacy thrown in trash can. But in the end it actually helped the HK outcry and this is what matters now.

If you won't buy D4 or OW2 for protest reasons, why would you keep buying Nike or Adidas shoes? This is just one example out of a myriad of companies who can't live without China's oppressive methods.
 

dilbag

Member
Apr 29, 2019
347
201
250
I am really hoping we get some good diablo news, d4 or a d2 remaster. i would be happy with either one of those announcements.
 

MiguelItUp

Member
Feb 24, 2015
7,528
6,797
810
They're "going all in" because they're scrambling with all of the news and attention they've received. They're trying not to lose their fans while putting out fires and trying to damage control.

I'm just curious to know if all those boycotting Blizzard are going to stand their ground.
 

dirthead

Banned
Jul 24, 2018
2,080
1,831
575
Blizzard fucked up. Years of legacy thrown in trash can. But in the end it actually helped the HK outcry and this is what matters now.

If you won't buy D4 or OW2 for protest reasons, why would you keep buying Nike or Adidas shoes? This is just one example out of a myriad of companies who can't live without China's oppressive methods.

The real fuckup was in 2008 when they sold out to Activision. Everyone with a clue saw this coming from a mile away. Every single thing they've done since 2008 has been marred in shit.
 

JimmyRustler

Member
Jun 17, 2006
10,649
3,032
1,780
Here's me hoping that D4 will be more like D2 again because Blizzard is trying to calm things down with the fans. I want a gothic Horror with gory graphics Diablo again and not that travesty that was D3.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Fuz

CuteFaceJay

Member
Sep 11, 2019
1,797
1,108
410
Knowing them they'll prolly have cops with peper spray at the ready. To be frank I can't be fucked with their commie sponsored BS.
 

michaelius

Banned
Jan 5, 2012
16,327
2,191
935
I have 0 trust that modern Blizzard is capable of doing good game and actually stick to their vision instead of just surrending to whatever will be loudest complain on their own forums.
 

adamosmaki

Member
Oct 9, 2019
268
275
325
For me Blizzard needs to have 3 thinks in order to buy their games again
1. Make a true warcraft sequel game and not that shitty MMO crap
2. Make a new Diablo in the style of Diablo 2 (great art style,great music, and replayability )
3. Consider remastering maybe Diablo 1 and 2
 

The_Mike

Member
Nov 5, 2017
5,403
8,960
760
D3's gameplay fundamentals were as solid as fuck. It actually PLAYS way better than D2 ever dreamed of playing.

The problem is that all the loot systems were just complete dog shit.

And the lack of rpg. Paragon system helped but became obsolete fast because it took ages to level up. Otherwise fun concept.
 

Trojita

Rapid Response Threadmaker
Feb 9, 2009
37,882
4,874
1,905
I don't even know who that is but boycotts are usually bullshit.
Steam prioritizes showing online gamers currently playing games on the front page of a list. This of course sometimes fails due to seeing some of the statusless users on that front page picture. 36 shown accounts on the first page, 19 of which are playing the game they are supposed to be boycotting. The full group is 1555.

It's a bad image to try and prove a point about boycotts.
 

billyxci

13 year old console warrior. Put me on ignore.
Aug 3, 2014
13,819
8,748
1,040
Gotta laugh at the people boycotting Blizzard. I wonder if they are boycotting all the other companies who are connected to China? Nah didn't think so. Some people just like to piss and moan.

If Diablo / Overwatch look interesting then I'll buy it. Simple as that.
 

newtypepilot

Member
Aug 19, 2015
2,846
1,215
585
Going all in because of damage control. I'll be shocked if they don't cancel all the live Q&A sessions because of the "freeHK" scandals.
 

MiguelItUp

Member
Feb 24, 2015
7,528
6,797
810
Not really what I was referring to.

It's a bad image to try and prove a point about boycotts.
Exactly.

Besides, that wasn't exactly what I was getting at, and I felt that was clear. My bad if it wasn't. All I was getting at is that they haven't been in a good spot lately due to all the press from the past few weeks, and they're scrambling to make good. So of course they're gonna try to do something like this.
 
Last edited:

Reon

Member
Apr 2, 2019
160
240
235
Here's me hoping that D4 will be more like D2 again because Blizzard is trying to calm things down with the fans. I want a gothic Horror with gory graphics Diablo again and not that travesty that was D3.
I wholeheartedly agree; the gameplay of D3 was okay but the art direction, worldbuilding and story were so fucking bad. It was lightened up to appeal to more audiences but gained this cartoony look, some of the characters look like they belong in Warcraft now with rainbow colored gear and pauldrons the size of their heads.

Diablo 4's concept art isn't making me hopeful though. I firmly believe that they're going to lighten it up even more than they did for D4, maybe even make it T-rated so all the kids (and China!) can purchase it too.
 
  • Like
Reactions: JimmyRustler

Tenaciousmo

Member
May 10, 2018
716
880
495
Montreal, Canada
I hate that I will still buy Diablo 4and most likely Overwatch 2 too no matter what unless some real quality problems.
I had a lot of fun with Diablo 3 despite all the negative attention it got early on. it got way better as time went on tho.