How far do you think the World of Warcraft market can expand? Subscriber-wise, is the sky the limit?
FP: No, I don't think the sky's the limit, eight and a half million is a lot and it's a lot of work for us. But it would be really exciting if we could hit 10 million - not sure if that's possible. We'll have to see.
But the thing that happened was, we planned for a capacity in the first year, in North America, of like 450,000 - in that range, in the first year. We exceeded that capacity in the first month, so we were playing catch-up for months and months after launch. But with the launch of Burning Crusade, it went really smoothly - we planned well in advance for having a lot of people online, and with the capacity we have now on the servers are pretty stable.
I remember back in the day, we were saying, ‘what are these guys doing with all these millions of dollars?’
FP: We were spending it! We were spending it on servers, but it's not something you can snap your fingers and deploy, there is a lead time to get the hardware and you have to send guys out to install it, and so on. But we definitely invested a lot into upgrading our infrastructure to the point where we’re at today. It's a situation where when it's working really well - everyone just takes it for granted. No one says: ‘Wow, the WoW servers are so stable, this is awesome.’ It just works, and they take it for granted and if it doesn't work, it’s all you hear about. So it's a thankless situation.
There's other things, that on a smaller scale, you see this too - one of them when you talk about like a real-time strategy game like Starcraft 2 is the pathing, the pathing AI. If it works really well, everyone takes it for granted, if it's not working well, everyone fusses about it. So the poor guys working on pathing is like a thankless job, because it’s a really tough problem and so if they do the job well, they don't hear anything, but if they're doing the job poorly all they get is guff for it.
Chris Sigaty: I guess that's kind of true across-the-board, nobody commends you for an awesome save system in a single player experience. But if it sucks then you hear about it.
So, Starcraft 2. Obviously, announced in Korea…what have you taken from the Korean market? I mean obviously, Starcraft is still going ridiculously over there. Have you taken a lot of feedback from that region?
CS: I think definitely more recently, it was…it totally caught us off guard completely with the original Starcraft and the reason we launched in Korea was a sort of nod, in recognizing that community. It's definitely on our radar, we have Blizzard Korea, we've opened offices there, because we they're a very important part of our fan base and community.
FP: I would add actually on that point, the competitive gaming component in Korea is huge. So what we're talking about, what we take away from Korea as far as that market. We always contemplated what we’re going to be doing as far as e-sports go in the context of games, because it's huge there.
CS: Yeah, but we didn't set out to make Starcraft knowing that was going to happen. It happened with Starcraft. Certainly you’ve seen it with World of Warcraft. It's definitely the biggest there… I don’t know if you want me to go to detail there, but they are setting the standard I think for where e-sports and competitive gaming is going and where it should go.
These guys, Frank and I were out at the original worldwide invitational announcement as well and it's the most amazing… I love to watch it. It's amazing, they're not just physically amazing that they're hitting keys as quickly as they are and physically doing things in the game in ways that we never could've anticipated. But it's also how quickly they are intellectually making decisions strategically - thinking, making changes just literally on a moment's notice, it's totally phenomenal.
I was wondering if you took anything from that for Starcraft 2?
CS: Absolutely, we are definitely considering that community. In fact, with Blizzcon, we let the community at large play: anybody that attends and also the pro gamers. And of course we’re not an internal outfit; we will do a beta of the project. So we’ll definitely be hitting up that community solidly for feedback and such.
Are you concerned at all about, when people are at that level…they are used to exact, slight timing of key presses and stuff like that. Is that something you have to take into consideration?
CS: Absolutely, and that's why we want to get that feedback. We actually have a pro gamer on our team who played in Korea with original Starcraft. Those things are super important to us; user interface is really key to some of the things that they're doing so, yes we are definitely considering that.