In the last year that I have been away from world of warcraft I have been watching the movement of WOW classic with disinterest at first and now with a small glimmer of hope. The thing that has always separated World of Warcraft from Vanilla all the way through to WOTLK and other MMORPGS like the original ever quest was the human interaction component. The human interaction with other players, the level of interaction you had with real people when dealing with a game or service related issue, the human interactions that you had with GM’s and Lore masters on the forums, and in so many other ways. Things such as the Auto ban/mute mechanic and the WOW token making into Classic WOW have concerned me. I try not to have to pessimistic of a view on these things, as there are components of WOW that purists from Vanilla would say ruined the game which I personally do not see as a bad thing. The recent lay offs at Activision Blizzard do truly concern me. The news that was delivered during the Activions Blizzards earnings call as follow hints at some of the trouble that classic may face in the coming months.
1. ATVI announced that 2018 had been a “record year” for the company with higher than ever revenue
2. ATVI forecast that 2019 would be a down year, mainly due to flat Blizzard titles and Blizzard not releasing any major new games
3 . ATVI said that it would increase the developers working on all of its core franchises by 20%
4. ATVI laid off almost 800 (as of today that number has grown to almost 1000) employees across the company, 8% of the workforce
5. ATVI said they would be buying back $1.5B in stock and would be increasing its dividend by 9%
6. ATVI stock has gone up 5.5%
While none of these point directly refer to classic they all directly or indirectly speak to what upper management at Blizzard thinks of classic or dose not think about classic. With 2018 being a record year for the company why would it put any stock in something from the past releasing like Classic? With the forecast of a down year for the company in 2019….the year that Classic will release speaks to the lack of belief that management has in Classic being impact-full to the company in any substantial was. That is one thing you can always trust publicly traded business to do. When they have a future opportunity on the horizon to expand there revenue stream they will always let there investors know. With a 20% increase in core game developers coming into the pipeline, Classic is shown to be not there future focused project, as point three points to no major projects coming in 2019. The 8% lay off of non development employees speaks straight to customer service and a main component of the success of Classic WOW and its legacy.
The last two points of …….. demonstrate that while the year was not what was projected for Activsion Blizzard entertainment with a modest amount of restructuring they could still please the people that had already made money The shareholders. The true mission and passion of Blizzard has moved from making games for consumers to making money for wall street. It is sad that this realization has come at the cost of almost 1000 jobs in the last couple days.
What this mindset could mean for classic World of Warcraft is not yet clear. This mindset could lead to Classic being overlooked and an amazing release with a surge of new subscription could lead Blizzard back to the understanding that putting the game first and making an awesome environment for gamer’s to play in; will lead to the profit that they so desperately need for there share holders. In words of their CEO Bobby Kotick, record profits don’t mean they’ve realized their full potential.