The past year has been one of the most rocky in memory for PC gaming paragon Blizzard Entertainment. The maligned announcement of Diablo: Immortal at BlizzCon 2018 was just the start of a tumultuous year with news that Blizzard cut hundreds of jobs despite posting record profits, rumors of Activision's increased cost-driven influence and a huge international controversy when two Taiwanese rollers and a professional Hearthstone players were banned when the player used his interview after the match to demand Hong Kong independence from China.
At the Path of Exiles ExileCon fan conference in New Zealand this weekend, I had the chance to talk to Blizzard North's founder and Diablo creators David Brevik, Erich Schaefer and Max Schaefer to get their opinion on Blizzards recent controversies. The interview, which includes their views on Diablo 4's announcement, Blizzard's past and present, and China's turbulent gaming industry, will be published in full on PC Gamer later this week.
During our chat, I asked Brevik, Erich, and Max Schaefer if it was difficult to see a company they helped build themselves into controversy over the past year, and if it felt like Blizzard had "sort of "changed.
"It's not" kind of "changed, it's completely changed," Brevik questioned, noting that the only original Blizzard developers left are senior art director Samwise Didier and President J. Allen Brack, whom Brevik still chats with regularly .
"The old Blizzard is gone," Max Schaefer added. "When we quit, there were 1
That change in the values and culture of Blizzard Entertainment is nothing new. It's something that "happens to businesses all the time," Brevik said, and is a natural part of any business that grows into a massive company.
Brevik and the Schaefer brothers all stated that even during the development of Diablo 2, there was a constant battle over its wonderful, satanic aesthetic between Blizzard North and Blizzard Entertainment, the company's main branch originally founded by Mike Morhaime, Allen Adham and Frank Pearce. But as Blizzard continued to grow after the success of Diablo, Warcraft and StarCraft, it became more difficult for the trio to focus on creative design and avoid corporate bureaucracy.
"I think the biggest thing is that we didn't talk about shareholder value," Erich Schaefer said. "We didn't talk about the Chinese government and what they might want. The only thing we ever talked about was what we wanted to do and what the fans would like. It's obviously not the case anymore, for better or for worse. I don't" They are a giant company. "
" You can't be as big and be as free as we were, and one of the reasons we left was to be more self-determined and not to look at some monstrous organization, said Max Schaefer. "Nothing ever stays the same. We would not have survived [Blizzard’s] growth in any form by staying there. It would have just made us crazy because that's just all we want to do is have a team and make the games we want do It is possible in the small group that Blizzard used to be and it is not possible in a media conglomerate empire that they have right now. "
Although Brevik, Max and Erich Schaefer left Blizzard back in 2003 and never had to deal with the modern ones the challenges of Blizzard's huge global presence, especially in esports, I was curious how they felt about the entire controversy surrounding Blizzard which banned pro Hearthstone player Chung & # 39; Blitzchung & # 39; Ng Wai – especially since all three have experience publishing games in China and working with Chinese partners. Brevik acted as advisor to Path of Exile's Chinese release, and both Schaefers have worked with Chinese investors and publishers on their various games.
"First of all, you sometimes wake up in the morning and you're just in a no win situation," Max Schaefer said. "And I think that was to some extent what happened to [Blizzard]. There was no clean way out. And I think they pretty much messed it up, obviously, but there was no way to get through it without any controversy."
As for the rumors and fears that Blizzard was pushing under pressure from the Chinese government or Blizzard's publishing partner, NetEase, Brevik said it sounded "like a conspiracy theory."
"Because of Blizzard's structure now, they think with their wallets first," speculated Max Schaefer. "I think that kind of led the decision more than anything, and maybe they underestimated what people's perception of it would be."
"Again, Blizzard was in a no-profit situation," Brevik said. "If they don't punish, what is it? They will just become this free speech platform for all kinds of political movements that anyone wants to address? They had to do something, but was it handled perfectly? Probably not. I mean, that's why they apologized. "
My full interview with David Brevik, Max and Erich Schaefer and more coverage of the path in exile, including its new campaign called Path of Exile 2 , will be published later this week.