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1. Issues With World of Warcraft
While Blizzard has many games, World of Warcraft remains their signature title. And with millions of players forking over monthly subscription fees, this game remains a major cash cow for Blizzard.
However, keeping the cash flowing means keeping fans happy. When Battle for Azeroth came out, fans were disappointed by confusing gameplay mechanics and crappy communication from Blizzard. This never really improved, and later expansions like Shadowlands were considered lackluster disappointments.
It doesn’t help that WoW now has some serious competition in the form of Final Fantasy XIV. Between the lawsuit drama and generally crappiness of WoW, major streamers like Asmongold have ditched WoW for FF14. And they are bringing their substantial base of fans with them and away from Blizzard.
2. The Diablo Immortal Debacle
Honestly, the worse incident on this list arguably occurred during the 2018 BlizzCon. And we can sum it up in two words: Diablo Immortal.
At this point, many fans were still disappointed about the quality of Battle for Azeroth. As a BlizzCon presentation wrapped up, fans were hoping for a glimpse of Diablo 4. Instead, they got a glimpse of the mobile game Diablo Immortal instead.
This resulted in loud, widespread boos from the crowd, especially when they announced the game would not come to PC at all. To make matters worse, Blizz dev Wyatt Cheng asked the crowd “What, do you guys not have phones?”
This moment crystallized how little Blizzard knew or even cared about what fans wanted. And it was all downhill from there.
3. Blizzard Gives Up On Heroes Of the Storm
Heroes of the Storm has never been nearly as popular as major MOBAs such as League of Legends. However, it carved out a comfortable place in the gaming community, and a robust professional league was beginning to rise up for this title.
By the end of 2018, Blizzard took a hatchet to the Heroes of the Storm development team. This was a preview of the massive layoffs to come. And as a result of having a smaller team, Blizzard destroyed the game’s professional esports league.
That might not sound like a big deal, but plenty of people had careers related to that game’s pro scene, including teams, managers, commentators, and other staff. Once again, Blizzard casually and carelessly showed fans how little they care.
4. Major Employee Layoffs Amid Record Profits
While the insults to players had been ongoing, we got our first real taste of Blizzard’s disdain for its own employees in early 2019. In February of that year, Blizzard laid off a whopping 800 employees.
Now, layoffs are usually an unfortunate consequence of business. When a company makes less profit than it needed to make, it can’t afford to keep every employee on board. But here’s the rub: in 2018, Activision Blizzard actually posted record profits!
This made pretty much the entire gaming community angry. How can a company lay off 800 employees despite making record profits? Simple: by not caring about those employees at all. The fact that CEO Bobby Kotick got a $200 million bonus during this time just ended up being salt in the wound.
5. The Hearthstone/Hong Kong Controversy
At this point, Blizzard was really on a roll. That massive layoff had generated quite a few headlines. But that was nothing compared to the fallout over Blitzchung in late 2019.
If you don’t remember, Blitzchung (real name: Chung Ng Wai) was a professional Hearthstone player. During an interview after the Asia Pacific Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament, he expressed his support for Hong Kong liberating itself from Chinese control.
Blizzard’s wrath was swift: Blizzard suspended him for a year, took away his winnings, and even banned the commentators who interviewed him for a year. Eventually, Blizzard restored Blitzchung’s winnings and reduced the ban on both him and his interviewers. But this was only after massive protests, players boycotting Blizzard’s games, and employees walking out in protest (a grim preview of what we would later see in 2021).
The story was clear: Blizzard cared more about keeping China happy than about letting a player express himself. And they very transparently care more about making an extra buck or two than even looking like they support human freedom from oppression.
6. Dropping the Ball With Warcraft 3: Reforged
How bad has Blizzard gotten? Well, it’s one thing to find ways of messing up their newer games. But somehow, they even managed to botch classic games, including the beloved title Warcraft 3.
Originally, Warcraft 3: Reforged was going to be a remastered version of Warcraft 3, complete with newly-recorded dialogue. But when the game launched, no new dialogue was anywhere to be found and the graphics were crappy. Oh, and Blizzard made players agree that all mods would be the property of the company, all while taking away popular features such as clans and the offline mode.
At this point, you may be asking why players didn’t simply go back and play the original. But that’s the worst part: Blizzard took the original game down, making it very difficult for anyone to play anything but this crappy version. Eventually, Blizzard promised to address the problems players had with Reforged.
Players are still waiting to see those improvements.
7. Overwatch Starts Falling Apart
Behind the scenes, Blizzard was bleeding some high-profile talent. When Mike Morhaime stepped down, we got the muppet, J. Allen Brack, as Blizzard president. And when Frank Pearce left, we lost some of the talents behind WoW’s better expansions, including Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King.
And, of course, creative director Alex Afrasiabi left as quietly as he could. But given that he was named in the lawsuit, it looks likely he was let go because he was a sex pest and a liability.
Fast forward to April 2021. This is when Jeff Kaplan left Blizzard. He was a company veteran of nearly two decades. And more to the point, as game director of Overwatch, he was the main representative for Blizzard’s popular shooting game.
Kaplan’s departure is bad news for Overwatch, a game that has struggled with balance issues and relevance. And Kaplan’s departure also signals bad news for the delayed Overwatch 2, a game that has changed focus, direction, and design on multiple occasions.
Add it all up and the writing is on the wall: even before Blizzard’s infamous lawsuit, the company had been bleeding major talent, screwing up all their biggest titles, and generally creating PR disasters at every turn.
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