Blizzard's Downfall: How a Company Dismantles itself in Just a Few Years

Blizzard's Downfall: How a Company Dismantles itself in Just a Few Years

Blizzard's Downfall

The player's favorite Blizzard has fallen deep. His crash, which has threatened over the years, seems to have been completed with the two complaints of the last few weeks and the knowledge that came with them. There have been dramatic restructuring and promises of salvation, but the reputation of the developer studio is badly damaged; Players and employees are angry and disaffected. We take a look at the company's history and summarize the most important points for you in a timeline. We are mainly concentrating on the last three years, as this is where the incidents that ultimately destroyed Blizzard's reputation accumulated. A chronology of descent.

Table of contents

1 Prelude: The years 2007 to 2017 2 2018: Battle for Azeroth and Diablo Immortal 3 2019: Blitzchung and mass layoffs 4 2020: Warcraft 3 Reforged 5 2021 : Sexual Discrimination Lawsuits

Prelude: The Years 2007 to 2017

In 2007 Vivendi Games / Blizzard and Activision merge to form what is now known as Activision / Blizzard. During this time, Blizzard has only the merger in common with Activision, because the typical Blizzard games are still developed in-house and published by the media group Vivendi. In 2013 the time has finally come: Activision Blizzard buys itself off from Vivendi. Incidentally, Bobby Kotick also invested his own fortune. He then begins to provide the company with its specially selected managers. The first upheaval threatens in 2017, when Blizzards' income falls and Activision then cuts the budget of the developer studio and insists on the release of more games in less time.

2018: Battle for Azeroth and Diablo Immortal

When Battle for Azeroth started on the beta servers in 2018, the players vented their displeasure in the Blizzard forums: The systems of the expansion , especially the Azerite armor, were too confusing, too unsatisfactory and not what one had hoped for from the feature. Bobby Kotick quickly began restructuring Activision / Blizzard after ransoming Vivendi.

Source: Activision Blizzard However, instead of answering questions from their players, the doors closed at Blizzard and player feedback was simply ignored. The expansion began in August 2018, including all of the previously criticized features. In September, Game Director Ion Hazzikostas took the stage and apologized to the players. The communication between the community and the development team should improve and the problems addressed should be eliminated. A month later, Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime left the studio and J. Allen Brack took over the post of president.

November of that year finally saw the most notorious Blizzcon in history: After the weak previous year and the battle-for -Azeroth disaster, the studio desperately needed a hit. Players bet that the Blizzcon Diablo IV would be featured in the main panel - and they were half right. Ironically, the mobile game "Diablo Immortal" is the main attraction of the event. Sentences like "don't you have phones" and "is this a belated April Fool's joke" became memes. Even if the BfA got off to a poor start and the mood was rather subdued, Diablo Immortal represented the point in many people's minds when the reputation of Blizzard began to rock dramatically for the first time. The title should also appear for mobile devices. In December, Blizzard added another nail to his coffin when they dumped the Heroes of the Storm professional scene practically overnight: Even pro gamers, teams and managers learned at the same time as all other players that the development team of the Title would be cut drastically and the e-sports scene would no longer be supported. Careers ended practically overnight.

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2019: Blitzchung and mass layoffs

The year 2019 began for Blizzard with a long Twitter post from employee Julian Murillo-Cuellar, in which he complained about harassment and racist statements on the Hearthstone eSports team. The incident that happened in 2016 was brought from Julian to the Group's HR team, where he was told that he was "not a team player" and that it was "difficult to work with him." During the Blitzchung scandal, the words “think globally” and “every vote counts” on the Blizzard statue in front of the corporate headquarters were covered by Blizzard employees. Source: Activision Blizzard

A little later, Bobby Kotick stepped to the lectern and told his employees in one breath that Activision / Blizzard had record profits in 2018, but 800 employees would be laid off in all areas. Development teams weren't touched, but Blizzard's IT, esports and community areas suddenly had few employees. In the middle of the year, another founding member resigned: Frank Pearce left the company after almost 30 years. Frank stood out for his role as executive producer for Warcraft 3 and all WoW expansions up to and including Mists of Pandaria.

As Hearthstone pro player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng amid the unrest in Hong Kong Wai was banned for a year, public pressure on Blizzard began to mount. Blitzchung spoke out in favor of Hong Kong's independence during an interview - and even the Taiwanese commentators who were present during that moment were fired. Important: Blitzchung explicitly broke one of the rules of the tournament. The timing and political background, however, were so unfortunate that it was easy to conclude that Blizzard wanted to protect its Far Eastern interests, as China occupies a large part of the gaming market. The result was protests in front of the Blizzcon, the involvement of human rights organizations and even a bipartisan letter from the American government to reverse the Blitzchung ban.

Reforged did not see the much-announced changes and newly recorded video sequences with dramatic camera angles . Warcraft 3 in particular was one of the symbols of Blizzard quality - an unforgivable mistake for many players. Source: Activision Blizzard

2020: Warcraft 3 Reforged

The features of Warcraft 3: Reforged initially sounded excellent: New dialogues, HD graphics including new models and an improved interface. The trailer at Blizzcon 2018 made you want more. However, what came on the market in 2020 no longer had much in common: The new speakers were deleted and the graphics of the surroundings could not keep up with the trailers. The hardest hit, however, was long-term fans who were suddenly no longer allowed to use clans or play offline - features that were still included in the old Warcraft 3. In the end user agreement, Blizzard also secured the rights to all mods for WC3: R. To top it off, Reforged automatically took the place of the original in the game libraries. Whoever wanted to play the old Warcraft 3 had to buy an original CD for better or worse.

The situation became so dramatic that the then President J. Allen Brack even formally apologized to the players. In a Bloomberg report from 2021, the concerns of the players were finally confirmed: The catastrophic state of Reforged was (again) due to Activision's actions, which not only mismanaged the project, but also drastically reduced the budget of the title br>
Diablo represented one of the first major upheavals in public opinion towards Blizzard. "Don't you have phones" became a meme that is still held by players to this day. Source: Activision Blizzard In the middle of the year, a Hearthstone player with the nickname Savjz spoke up, whose wife was looking for a job as part of the layoff of 800 Blizzard employees last year. When it came out that his wife criticized the company on Twitter, Savjz was no longer invited to Hearthstone tournaments. After some mutual accusations, the player was removed from the "black list" and is now allowed to participate in the official tournaments again. Particularly bitter: At the same time, Blizzard posted 2,000 new jobs. The dismissals from the previous year now seemed particularly arbitrary and unjustified. Towards the end of the year, Blizzard employees began comparing their salaries in anonymous groups and noticed enormous differences.

Also in 2020, Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi suddenly left the company. Players didn't notice his job change until they went to his Linked In profile and saw the changes there.

2021: Sexual Discrimination Lawsuits

The year didn't start well for Blizzard: With Frances Townsend hired a notorious Bush-era politician who, in her day, served as the de facto face in the war on terror, defending acts such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation as imperative. In her role as Chief Compliance Officer, she is now responsible for ensuring that the Blizzards games comply with the regulations of various countries. Townsend last made a name for itself when she published articles in the wake of the indictments calling whistleblowers a "threat to a company". With Brian Bulatao, Blizzard also hired a well-known Trump administrator as Chief Administration Officer. In April 2021, Jeff Kaplan, who had worked at Blizzard for almost 20 years and was most famous for his work in the Overwatch franchise, took off his hat. Almost all of the old faces have now been replaced by new managers.

In July of this year the time had finally come: The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing announced that it had been sued in the course of a two-year investigation Activision Blizzard is rising. The allegations: sexual harassment and discrimination. The lawsuit contains anonymous reports that Blizzard employees are exposed to "constant sexual harassment, physical intrusiveness and unfair promotion practices". Former Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi and President J. Allen Brack are explicitly named in the document. Brack because he tolerated the culture of harassment and did not stop it, and Afrasiabi because he is said to have sexually molested several women. In the course of the investigation, it also comes to light that Afrasiabi's departure from 2020 was due to "his behavior towards employees".

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How the group’s future will look is uncertain . One thing is clear, however: the pre-2007 Blizzard no longer exists and the company has now used up all of its trust. In an article and video, we have worked out the scandal in detail for you.

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