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Building Battle.net

November 5, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next
 

You believe it's really important [for the service team] to be integrated, working closely with the game design team. Did that you think that caused the delay in launch?

GC: Oh no.

But it certainly didn't help things, as far as the timeliness of the game?

GC: It was one of many factors. There were a lot of risk factors, a lot of complexity. There was a lot of engineering complexity. There was a lot of risk related to the WoW integration, risk related to being able to staff up a team, risk related to being able to deeply integrate -- certainly design and coordination with the game team. [Figuring out] what the meta-social Battle.net experience will be around StarCraft was a challenge for us. It was a contributor.

I wouldn't say it was a primary driver, but it definitely was kind of more of a cautionary note for everyone to realize that there's a lot of complexity there when you're working with two different teams and you're working on a unified experience that's supposed to be deeply integrated.

It's a very complex thing to do and to pull off really effectively. It's one implication of the deeply integrated approach, right. If it's a platform -- like Xbox Live, right? It's a platform, there's a dashboard, and then there are games that sit on top of it. Those two don't really interact with each other that much. There's the heads-up display where you can access your friends list and such, but that's kind of an overlay.

Bungie can do whatever they want underneath with Halo: Reach, and this is kind of an overlay. That's not the approach we took. Battle.net is not an overlay on top of a StarCraft experience that would be, "Those guys would own that. We would own this." No, it's a meeting of the minds.

Why does Blizzard need this platform? Why not just use something like Steamworks?

GC: It might make sense [for other companies]. It really depends on the platform and the opportunity. If you're in the console space, you really don't have a lot of choice. You really have to use one of the game services. They do a really good job, right? If you're in the PC space, there are a number of different solutions for you. If you're looking out there and you want to deeply integrate with a game service, there's Steam and Steamworks.

Battle.net is very focused on Blizzard titles today -- but who knows, in the future? There are other services out there like Games for Windows Live. There are a few players.

In the iPhone space, that was really kind of what I was thinking about. There is more opportunity to innovate, I think... You have Game Center. This has come along recently, but you've got OpenFeint and [Ngmoco's] Plus+. Those guys are willing to work with individual game developers, even small developers, on some really unique integrated scenarios that I think are more akin to the Battle.net integration that I was talking to.


StarCraft II

[Activision Blizzard CEO] Bobby Kotick is always talking about using Blizzard's knowhow and technology. Would it be feasible to put Activision games on Battle.net? Or would it just be something more like, for example, a Call of Duty team using the service framework that you guys developed in for their own games?

GC: Well, I'll tell you this. Bobby Kotick and all the folks at Activision are very, very supportive of Battle.net and what we're doing. They've listed this as one of the top strategic initiatives -- I mean, to the shareholders. They've said that Battle.net is one of the top five strategic initiatives going on at Activision Blizzard.

Having said that, as you know, Blizzard and Activision are really two separate entities, and we really do our own thing. For Blizzard, I think back to what Mike Morhaime said at Blizzcon [2009], which is that Blizzard is all about focus, and we have so many things going on right now.

We have this vibrant World of Warcraft business. We have the StarCraft II business and eSports. We've got Diablo III and what's going on there, and that's going to be a huge phenomenon for us. We've got so many opportunities in front of us, I think the mistake that we could make as a company, and I don't think we are making it because we're aware of it, is to get spread too thin and go in too many directions.

There are huge opportunities in front of us with new games, with licensing opportunities, with movies, and other things we have going on, and the risk is that we get distracted off of what we're really good at, which is making kick-ass entertainment experience.

And so, for us, by extension, for Battle.net, what does that mean for me as the guy driving Battle.net? That focus is what I am looking for. So, for today, it's Blizzard games. It's making sure that Diablo III has a kick-ass online experience. It's making sure that we evolve and add features to StarCraft II. It's making sure WoW kicks ass for Cataclysm and beyond. Those are the focal points for my group going forward and the foreseeable future.

Some day, maybe we add other titles in there. Who knows? When we really feel like we've really delivered that kick-ass set of experiences for Blizzard games, and we feel like we've grown the team -- and you've heard some of my challenges growing the team and finding the talent -- when I've got that sustainability, when we really feel like we've got that dialed in and nailed down, you know, who knows what the future holds.


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