While many might wonder if Blizzard's upcoming codenamed "Titan" MMO will be able to run parallel with World of Warcraft without taking the latter game's audience, Blizzard cofounder and EVP of product development Frank Pearce told Gamasutra he has set his sights on the near-term.
Asked if Titan might cannibalize WoW's players, Pearce replied, "It's hard to say. I think even a shorter-term concern is whether or not we might see cannibalization of WoW players from Diablo III when we launch it, because it's a similar type of experience. Not exactly similar, but it's that RPG feel."
"For us, I think it's really important that we recognize that somewhere, sometime it's likely that someone is going to cannibalize World of Warcraft players," said Pearce.
"So it's better we cannibalize them ourselves than let someone else do that, because if we cannibalize them ourselves, they're still a Blizzard customer," he said. Diablo III currently has no announced release date.
Even with stiff competition and the dominant WoW looming over the MMO market, Pearce also argued against the idea that there's no more room for other companies to see big success in the sector.
"Whether it's a Blizzard game or another great MMO, I think there's plenty of space in the market for great MMOs to share customers," Pearce added.
"We have players that burn through content in weeks or months that takes us two years to create. There are so many people looking to play these experiences so passionately, so many hours a week, I think there's plenty of space for the industry to grow."
Pearce said he remembers when The Sims began to take off about a decade ago, and after its success, people thought that market was saturated. But over a decade later, The Sims has been a regular top 10-selling PC game. His point was that few developers tried to capitalize on the popularity of the genre because they were intimated by the success of one franchise.
"If people are looking at something like that and saying there's no space, then I don't know what to say," said a shrugging Pearce. "If you make a great game experience that's really awesome, there's always more room in that market."
"Deliberate" Talent Transfer To Project "Titan"
As Blizzard transferred its most veteran WoW developers to the new project Titan, other experienced WoW developers at the studio have taken the reins of the MMORPG over the last couple of years.
That hand-off hasn't been taken lightly by Blizzard. "It's been a very deliberate process," said Pearce. "Whether someone's leaving for another team or moving onto other opportunities outside of Blizzard, it's important for us to have a solid succession plan in place."
A solid succession plan is not only used for transferring team members to new projects, but also to make sure employees don't get burnt out on a single Blizzard game, said Pearce.
"World of Warcraft has been in development in some shape or form dating back to 1999, 2000, somewhere around there," he explained. "That's more than 10 years, and as cool as it is to be working on World of Warcraft, and as great as I think that would be for anyone to have an opportunity to contribute to something as successful as that, to do it for 10 years is potentially asking too much of someone."
"So we need to be very conscious of the fact that at some point, people that have been on the project for a long time are going to need a change of scenery, to do something new and fresh," Pearce continued. "And so we're very conscious of succession planning and making sure we have mechanisms in place for knowledge transfer to make sure that when someone moves on, someone else will be there to fill those shoes."
Pearce said long periods of time working on a game can have varying amounts of fatigue on workers at Blizzard. He said many of the people working on WoW still have a passion for playing the game, and that passion transfers over to their work for the title. On the other hand, if developers are losing interest in playing the MMORPG, fatigue shows up in their work life.
"If we can keep people on the team that are really enthusiastic about playing the game, that energizes the other people around them that maybe aren't necessarily playing the game," said Pearce.