It looks like Blizzard has finally hit it big time.
Whenever I’m not running a crazy-ass ponzi scheme in World of Warcraft to generate absurd amount of cash, I try to keep up with what’s actually happening in that game. At least, from time to time. So I was pretty surprised when I saw a pretty lengthy response from one of Blizzard’s flackies that indicated something a bit out of character for the MMORPG supergiant. For the first time — since I can remember, at least, when I started working on my auction shenanigans — Blizzard is focusing on the supermajority rather than the superminority.
Blizzard executed a hotfix recently that resulted in some dramatic latency improvements for about 99 percent of its players. The fix trashed the other 1 percent of the players. But Blizzard seems pretty content with that — you can’t win every battle is their argument. And from a purely logistical standpoint, it’s true. There’s always been a minority that cries about class balance and server maintenance.
Apparently there’s a fix in the pipeline for those latency issues with the 1 percent. Instead of waiting for that fix, But Blizzard went ahead and rolled out the changes and damned the minority to a pretty terrible experience for the next month or so. Blizzard has always been one of those stellar companies that is not satisfied unless it has every single one of its customers on lockdown. (I personally get hounded from time to time to reactivate old canceled accounts.)
Every company hits a threshold where it becomes pure nonsense to pay attention to a tiny blip of a blip. It’s not the happiest decision in the world, but Blizzard had to reach it eventually. It’s still a pretty innocuous introduction to the big leagues for the World of Warcraft developer — not with fanfare, but with an almost complete non-issue.
But it does fire off the signal flare that Blizzard — and its parent company, Activision-Blizzard, have finally hit the big leagues. The video game industry, despite being a massive behemoth, has been only quietly growing as its more famous music and movie brethren get all the attention. So they have been able to skirt some of the rules — maybe it means they don’t have as aggressive revenue targets, maybe it means they can develop a game for 14 years.
Now it seems, for better or worse, that Blizzard might be the one that ends up leading a charge into the mainstream. This was a pure cost-benefit decision and the decision was in favor of improving the experience for the supermajority. That’s some pretty hardcore corporate thinking — and definitely something a bit new for the video game industry.