Tobold's Blog
Friday, December 07, 2007
SEC filings on Activision Blizzard

PΘtshΘt posted links to the SEC filings on the Activision Blizzard merger and some other related documents. Besides the financial information one can also get some vague ideas about their plans for the future of World of Warcraft out of it. Oh, and they also state their total investment in WoW as being >$200MM (I'd read that as being development cost of the game and the expansions, plus hardware investment). Cheap, considering the $517MM profit in 2007 and the >40% profit margin.

Now, onto the future, where I noticed the following tidbits:
That doesn't sound very exciting or innovative, but I don't think it means they threw all thoughts of innovation overboard. After all this is a financial document, and "execute proven strategies" plays well with financial analysts, even if gamers might not be too excited about the idea.

Gamers also will not necessarily like the ideas of "in-game advertising" and "add new online revenue streams", which could include microtransactions as well as advertising. We'd be more comfortable with "grow subscription base" and "strengthen customer loyalty", but of course those are easy to claim as goals and hard to realize. I'd just like to point out that focusing on raid content is *not* the way to make the game more accessible to a larger number of players ("grow subscription base") or to strengthen the customer loyalty of the majority of WoW players, who happen to be non-raiders. An expansion model that only adds content to the high-level end of the game likewise isn't ideal to pursue these stated goals. Maybe Activision Blizzard should take the opportunity of the coming reorganization to get some fresh blood into the WoW development team and pursue some new ideas.
Hmm...Ive been doing a very quick bit of thinking about this.

Blizzard could treat WOW as a cash cow and continue to milk the existing player base for a few more years while they launch their new MMORPG (which I assume is already in development). However this carries huge risk - there is no guarantee that WOW2 will be as successful as WOW1 while a new title such as World of Starcraft carries even greater risk.

It seems to me that a much better strategy (if they can pull it off) would be to morph World of Warcraft into a new game which has new stuff for old players as well as hooks to pull in new players. This approach has several challenges (how to continue to hold on to older players who are suffering from boredom and burnout, how to attract new players to an "old game", how to bridge the ever widening gulf between old and new players) but I think the payoff could be huge. Eve online (disastrous patches aside) has managed this to some extent but the rigid level progression of WOW is a difficulty.

One brute force approach might be to create a brand new game but link it in some way (magic portal?) to the old world. Characters could travel to the new world but for some gobbledygoook reason would lose their skills and abilities and have to start afresh.
sorry, although i am a blizzard-fan since wc2. Blizzard makes superb games, but innovative isn't their drive. they pick a game and simply make it easier,better, cooler.
There is no more Blizzard, it's dead and gone.
Doubt that very much anon.

But here's something funny concerning the merger. The CEO of the company actually said what is in the 1st frame of this strip.
The only fresh blood they need in WoW is to replace Jeff Kaplan as lead designer. Normally I don't like placing the blame for all the game mechanics I don't like on one designer but he's consistantly been a bane to the casual player.

Welfare Epics indeed.
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