WoW’s Continued Sunset Shines Bright For Blizzard’s Future

Blizzard's future isn't WoW

World of Warcraft has once again lost more “subscribers” in a few months than most (close to all) MMOs could ever dream of having. They dropped something like 3 million subscribers in a three month period, marking the sharpest decline in the history of the game. I think they remain at a lowly 7.1 million? All according to plan.

Over the years I have been saying that WoW’s slow decline is in Blizzard’s best interest, and a decline in WoW subscribers is ultimately beneficial for them financially, and realistically their goal. You’d think I was crazy back then given the responses I got in the comments, but look at the landscape of Blizzard’s revenue stream now.

Looking at Blizzard’s financials, over 40% of their revenue stream came from non-WoW games, and that’s estimated to exceed 50% this year. I bet that by the time Overwatch launches, their non-WoW revenue will be closing in on the 70% mark. Blizzard is diversifying, and the money isn’t in WoW anymore, or at least for much longer. They’ve said it themselves, “Strong recurring franchise diversification is in process inside the Blizzard portfolio, which sets us up for a bright 2016 and beyond.”

This diversification is not only a great business move for Blizzard, but a great outlook for us players. We get more games to enjoy in a variety of flavors, and we’ll start to see developers trying new things in order to appeal to the new ‘variety is the spice of life’. Soon, one day, there will no longer be just one giant behemoth of a game strangling the MMO industry. Mark my words, we are returning to an era where there are fewer players per game with more games available offering a variety of playstyles. This day is coming; it must come.

The sun never sets on Blizzard’s empire. So yes, WoW’s decline is good for Blizzard. Those players can now be transitioned into other titles where they will spend more money more often. All according to plan indeed.

Hearthstone for the iPhone

hearthstone-iphone

Hearthstone released for the iPhone just a couple of days ago, and I’ve already clocked 5+ hours…. all of which may or may not have been during the work day. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not great at Hearthstone. It’s not the deepest or most difficult to understand or even master card game out there, and like all card games you are only as good as the cards in your deck. Since I haven’t been into the idea of playing a lot of Hearthstone on my PC, as I’d rather play on the go, I’ve held off playing and thus haven’t earned cards. So take this review for what it’s worth — not that of a Hearthstone master, but rather an iPhone 6 Plus gaming enthusiast and still a fan of the game.

Hearthstone on my iPhone 6 Plus runs well enough. I have moment of slow-down, and loading times aren’t fantastic. These feel like something that I bet will be patched within a couple of weeks. This delay and often finicky nature of the touch controls has lead to more than one mistaken selection or card placement resulting in my utter defeat. The image above is actually of a match I was playing today. I mistakenly healed myself because the touch control let go when I was dragging it to my minion.

Blizzard’s implemented of the game on the iPhone does, overall, work. A few extra steps like having to click on my hand to bring it up, and touching to hold cards to see what they do adds to the time it takes me to execute my turn, but over time as I learn cards these will be less of an issue. The extra steps are a little annoying, but at the same time I’m willing to put up with them having Hearthstone in my pocket where I go.

What I love most about this whole thing is how integrated the Battle.net experience is, and the fact that I am playing on my phone with people on their computers, tablets, or phones. I have full access to my friends list and can chat, see what everyone is up to, and whatever I do on my iPhone is completely linked to my exact same Hearthstone account anywhere else. Wonderful integration that has, thus far, worked flawlessly.

Yeah, Hearthstone isn’t perfect. As a card game you can rip it apart. It’s pay-to-win, governed by incredible meta game, luck., etc… but it’s hard to beat free, and it’s hard to beat having it on my iPhone. The pay-to-win aspects are no different than the hundreds I’ve spent on MTG cards. I’m just trying to convince myself that a digital version is essentially the same thing when my brain is telling me it’s not. Bottom line, I have to spend money on cards for Hearthstone to realize its full potential.

Keen and Graev's Review Score:

Blizzard Rumors Once Again

Rumors are usually something best left alone, but when it comes to Blizzard rumors they might as well be true. The most recent rumors have made their way to Reddit and are worth a read if you enjoy Blizzard games as I generally do.

Hearthstone is doing incredibly well.  As I have often said, I think this is a great path for Blizzard and any company to take. I think Hearthstone is brilliant and I’m eager for it to come to iPhone. The fact that Blizzard is profiting so much from Hearthstone and outsourcing WoW art asset creation does lend credence to my insane notion that they are slowly phasing out WoW in favor of games like Hearthstone.

Gutting the Diablo 3 team is no shocker as the game itself has seen growing pains and failed to really gain the traction of other Blizzard titles. What’s surprising is that the staff are working on a Starcraft game with Left4Dead, Dayz, and Smite elements. I have no idea how that will all combine together into anything feasible… but I imagine how awesome it might be to play as a Marine in a FPS scenario against other players taking control of zergling and hydralisks.  That could be a blast!

The news that Heroes of the Storm might not be doing so hot, or at least expected to do so hot, saddens me. I like it a lot more than DOTA and definitely way more than LoL. It’s not even out of beta yet and if the rumor is true it might end up being scrapped before it ever begins — Blizzard has done it before (SC Ghost).

Lastly, Overwatch’s business model is being tossed around. I’m convinced it’ll be some sort of TF2 F2P meets B2P (hows that for acronyms?) which will make stupid amounts of cash. That will surprise absolutely no one.

I wouldn’t mind if the rumors all came true. I’ll be sad about HotS but otherwise seems like a direction I’d be happy to see Blizzard go.  Now, any news about Warcraft 4?

P.S. WoW expansions and all that yada yada.

 

Why I’m Not Playing Warlords of Draenor

I’m proud of myself. A WoW expansion is coming out and I’m not going to jump right in and play again. Every time an expansion comes out I think, “Ooooh! I love Warcraft and the world and the story and it’s all so awesome!” Then I play and that magical illusion I create in my mind dissolves quickly. My thoughts turn away from Orcs vs. Humans and glorious cutscenes and imagining epic adventures. I start thinking, “Time to log in and get that loot. What’s my gear score?” My immersion is shattered and I quit a month later.

I’m going to avoid shattering my illusion this time and pretend everything is just as I imagine.

Speaking of Warcraft and fond memories, have you checked out Blizzard’s Looking for Group documentary? It’s an hour long but worth watching. They start right off by giving all the right props to UO and EQ for inspiring them to stop their current projects and go the route of an MMO.

My memories of WoW will always be better than what I’m actually thinking while I play the game. Realizing that, I can honestly say I love World of Warcraft. I just don’t love playing it.

Only Blizzard

Overwatch New Blizzard IP

Only Blizzard can both excite and disappoint me at the same time. Only Blizzard can be unoriginal and draw this amount of hype. I wasn’t expecting them to be original. In fact, I wanted them to make another Warcraft RTS game. I’m disappointed by the fact that they are still drawing this out as long as possible. It’s inevitable. There will be another Warcraft RTS game. It’s going to happen. The 20th anniversary of Warcraft would have been a good time.

Instead, we now know that Blizzard’s next new IP/Franchise is going to be Overwatch. Overwatch is a first-person shooter that looks shockingly just like Team Fortress 2. Blizzard is rarely ever completely original. They simply take what has worked well in the past and blown it up into something bigger and arguably in many instances (no pun intended) better.

The basic premise of Overwatch DOES appeal to me. I really do enjoy shooters like this, and I really do enjoy the zaniness brought about by this type of setting. I’m a fan of the art style… I’m just a fan of all of it. They seem to have a great offering for characters to play with different roles and abilities.

I imagine Overwatch will be free to play with the same kind of hats and costumes model as TF2. This is the route they’re going with their games. I keep saying over and over that Blizzard knows their money is in games like Hearthstone (seriously, did you see how much they were hyping it during the opening ceremony of Blizzcon?) and now Overwatch. Their COMMUNITY is in games like WoW. It will be interesting to see how they balance this transition.

Bottom line(s)…

  • I’ve never played a Blizzard game that I did not enjoy immensely.
  • I love each and every one of Blizzard’s franchises.
  • Blizzard makes high-quality games.

Therefore…

Overwatch will be a great franchise full of high-quality games that I enjoy immensely. Damn you for not announcing Warcraft 4.