Blizzard entertainment, creator of video games that are considered among the most iconic ever, such as Diablo, Warcraft, and Starcraft, has gone through many digital revolutions and has constantly risen to the top. Every game they have released beginning with Starcraft in 1998 has debuted as the #1 selling game . Let us examine key moments in the digital world, including the personal computer revolution, the widespread use of the internet, and the move to mobile, and see how Blizzard has adapted to these changes and come up with games that keep gamers addicted.
Blizzard began as a small game developer in 1991 . Back then they were producing games for the super Nintendo entertainment system. PCs are able to form networks together and have players play together in a “LAN party”, first popularized in 1993. Blizzard successfully rode that wave and released Warcraft, their first PC game, in 1994. Warcraft was a strategy game that could fully tap into the potential of the competitive gaming aspect enabled by LAN, generating the “hardcore gamer” category . They continuously released other strategy games that cemented them as the leader in the category, but LAN was not the final battleground, the battle goes online.
The battle on the net
Blizzard released Diablo, their first game that could be played with other players online, in late 1996, along with Battle.net, the free online platform that makes it easier than ever for PC gamers around the world to play together via the internet . Battle.net, along with their extremely well designed games simply allowed players to login to the system with a personal profile, search for matches, and chat with each other . That was all battle.net did but it was simple and functional and fueled a colossal rise in online gaming. Again, they continued their dominance by releasing monumentally successful games that capitalize on the ever so popular online gaming aspect whilst continuously improving quality and introducing features that are appealing to gamers even without the online aspect.
In 2004, internet penetration was roughly 64% in the U.S . The conditions were right for the biggest move in online gaming history. Blizzard’s released World of Warcraft (WoW), which would to become the highest grossing PC game in history, with over $8.5 Billion and still growing . Unlike previous releases by Blizzard, WoW can only be played online. The game was known to be extremely addictive and immersive as players were able to live in a fantasy world complete with seemingly endless actions to do and real time interactions with millions of other players. WoW has to be purchased up front like previous games but players also have to pay a monthly subscription to play. Blizzard was able to see the effect of the digital transformation on home entertainment and catered to them with WoW. New installments of WoW are still being released in the present, though the amount of subscribers are much less than when it peaked at 12 Million in 2010 .
The next evolution in gaming began when smartphones and app stores came to the public in 2007. The demographics of gamers and how they experience gaming both physically and behaviorally changed dramatically. Devices for mobile gaming is much more widespread, but the gaming software itself tends to be much less complex. The profit model for mobile games also changed dramatically as people are less likely to pay up front for downloads . Blizzard released Hearthstone in 2014 as an online mobile card game based on their Warcraft franchise. Hearthstone is free to download but essentially charges users for better cards. Though slow to the market, they made sure their product was of high quality. Hearthstone has made over $500 Million and is one of the top 10 esports (3 total from Blizzard) .
Blizzard is doing extremely well today, but who knows what digital transformations will take the gaming industry in the future. Company executives have stated that they will put more focus on esports, mobile gaming, and online community experience, but has no plans to pursue virtual reality in the short term . Is that the right way to go? Or are they totally throwing away the future by ignoring VR?