After the recent rumor of Activision winding up for a new set of layoffs to go effective in the upcoming days and the appointment of a new CFO, it’s time for Blizzard to finally part ways with Activision before they are affected most.
In a surprising bit of news from Bloomberg, it’s become apparent that things at Activision Blizzard Inc. aren’t going well yet again as the company begins to ramp up for a round of layoffs that could affect several hundred employees across the entire Activision brand. A painful bit of news that can make any person cringe at the sound of those very two words together “Lay Off”.
The news comes only weeks after Bungie having split ways from the publisher and going independent and Activision Blizzard Inc. has offered to pay employees to leave their Blizzard jobs. Alongside those two massive rumbles, Activision isn’t quite done in their questionable corporate moves as the companies newly appointed CFO, Dennis Durkin, was brought on board for $15m USD.
The biggest cuts, however, isn’t over. Out of Activision’s roughly 10,000 employees – give or take a few hundred – the company is expected to reveal those jobs this coming Tuesday. For some, they are bracing for the worst as much of the blow could be dealt to Blizzard Entertainment themselves. But why might this be? Well, let’s talk about it.
Blizzard games are losing their user base
Unfortunately, not all is well for Blizzard themselves. With the departure of Mike Morhaime, the declining number of users for their key titles such as Overwatch and Hearthstone, coupled with the cancellation of Heroes of the Storm esports does hurt the Blizzard outlook quite a bit, but is it REALLY Blizzard’s fault?
Well, sort of. Unfortunately, with so many games under their belt, a single studio such as Blizzard can get overwhelmed with all the key titles they have out. Titles such as Overwatch, Hearthstone, Diablo III, World of Warcraft, and even World of Warcraft take a lot of manpower to develop and maintain. With so many titles comes operational costs included in keeping such titles running.
With declining player numbers across the board, but Activison Blizzard Inc. also losing Bungie, they could see a massive hit to their wallets. Another big hit also comes from the fact that Blizzard Entertainment is also teaming up with NetEase to deliver their mobile-device focused Diablo title named Diablo Immortal.
A move that has caused quite a few Blizzard fans to lose faith with the developer themselves and questioning the future of Blizzard’s games.
Activision is suffering from executive departures and is using Blizzard to cut their losses
Unfortunately, Activision has been hit with some major executive departures. Big names such as Eric Hirshbirg, former CEO of Activision Publishing, Mike Morhaime, the longtime head of Blizzard Entertainment, and even their former Chief Financial Officer, Spencer Neumann, had all departed for various reasons.
The most noteworthy of the three, or controversial, being their former CFO, Spencer Neumann, who was fired from the company before taking the same position over at Netflix Inc. only to be replaced within a week notice by Dennis Durkin, the new CFO of Activision, at the cost of $15m USD.
Previously to his hiring, Activison Blizzard Inc. was offering Blizzard employees to leave the company with the incentive of being paid for their departures. The looming threat remains relevant for Blizzard Entertainment as the company itself could be hit with the largest portions of the rumored layoffs that are expected to be announced within the next day or two.
During 2018, it has even been noted by many that Chief Operating Officer, Armin Zerza, has been working hard to cute Blizzard’s spending and produce more games all the while. The company has already received a new remaster announcement such as Warcraft III and brand new content coming to Overwatch. To put things into perspective, there hasn’t been a new game to come out of Blizzard Entertainment since 2016.
Activision’s motives seem financially-driven in the eyes of long-time fans
Lately, there’s a general concern from Blizzard fans that the company itself is being used by Activision in order to use them for financially-driven decisions to benefit themselves. Blizzard even axed Heroes of the Storm back in December along with its esports program and even cut down the size of its development team.
Unfortunately, it seems that Activision’s creeping influence could lead to more downsizing within the Blizzard ecosystem in the upcoming days. This includes a drastic drawback development team for less successful games or games that aren’t seeing adequate growth. Most notable titles such as Hearthstone.
It became apparently clear to many fans that this was a problem even for Bungie once the studio parted ways with Activision Blizzard. The Bungie team even stated that they had looked into ways to remove Eververse from Destiny 2, but it doesn’t seem that it will actually happen just yet. Even Paul Tassi of Forbes has gone into great length to explain why the Eververse drops may not be removed anytime soon.
Call of Duty: Black Ops IV and its microtransactions have even been called into question due to weapons being locked behind Black Market progression.
It’s time for Blizzard Entertainment to part ways from Activision altogether
As a long-time fan of Blizzard Entertainment, starting with Blizzard North’s Diablo – it’s clear that the C-suits see Blizzard as an easy place to go – expendable assets if you will. The company has done everything the studio themselves have done everything they can to revitalize their player bases across all their games. None of it, however, has even worked.
Sure, characters, maps, and even re-works to existing characters in Overwatch along with majorly requested changes to Hearthstone and World of Warcraft, including World of Warcraft Classic. While these games certainly are doing something new, delivering unexpected experiences, and drawing fans in; Blizzard has a lot of work left to do in order to keep fans coming back.
Because of the questionable practices by Activision, it is time for Blizzard Entertainment to consider parting ways. The benefits outweigh the odds of them sticking around. The company could easily develop the games how they want; when they want; even listen to the more critical feedback from their fans.
While there’s no doubt that Diablo IV is in the works, even recent reports of it happening are coming out of the woodwork as Blizzard Entertainment just geared up for a bunch of new-hires through a massive hiring spree they did back in January. While there’s no doubt that they are hard at work developing their game, we still have to wonder – will it be as bad as Diablo III was when it initially launched, or will they take the critical feedback seriously and make something close to that of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction?
Things certainly seem that way as the Diablo – Book of Adria: A Diablo Bestiary just released, giving us an even deeper look into the Diablo universe. Perhaps, it’s time for something to happen in the Warcraft and Starcraft universes. While there’s no doubt that a short-term resolution would be a Battle Royale title of their own, Blizzard needs time, plenty of time, to come up with something new, even more sustainable than ever before.
A Diablo II remake has been a high request by long-time fans and would surely benefit them quite a bit.
Blizzard needs to consider brand new IPs
As many have noted, Blizzard has become dependent on already well-established franchises and their ability to keep players coming around. While it’s unsurprising that World of Warcraft players tend to trickle off between massive updates, one may also need to consider that this means a financial loss. Whether it’s a few million players or not, those lapsed subscription fees are a massive financial loss and could be considered detrimental.
Brand new IPs, whether co-op or single-player, would benefit Blizzard now, more than ever. Even console versions of some of their bigger hits could even benefit them quite a bit. Just look at games such as Final Fantasy XIV and Gwent for example. They do quite well and their player bases are quite astounding. But this does mean new IPs still need to happen.
The biggest thing is doing something new, doing something unexpected, and something that stands out from the rest. They’ll need a game that fans can truly be excited for, Nintendo Switch ports aside. Whether it’s something close to what Project Titan was expected to be or even a Mass Effect-style game (RPG with an absolute focus on its narrative), could benefit them quite a bit.
But at this point, some of the problems facing Blizzard is self-afflicted. They’ve skirted on the success of, as I stated earlier, already existing IPs, only patching them, adding content to them, and sustaining them to bring players back even if only temporarily. It’s time for them to look at the bigger picture, to look into ways to make profits without relying on microtransactions or subscriptions.
But it might be too late – the conclusion
Sadly, the truth is out there – it might be too late for Blizzard to save themselves. While I have no hard feelings towards Activision and I understand many of the decisions they make are strictly business; it doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways of handling the business side of things.
Some of their problems arose from Destiny 2 failing to meet expectations while Call of Duty: Black Ops IV didn’t exactly sell as well as they hoped. While Call of Duty: Black Ops IV – Blackout has kept a substantial amount of players, it’s not the game you’re going to be used to writing home about and it certainly isn’t one that’s going to rejuvenate Activision Blizzard to the degree Apex Legends has EA in recent times.
But let me be clear here. I have absolutely no ill will towards Activision or Blizzard one. I think they both are absolutely talented and filled to the brim with some of the most talented minds in the gaming industry. However. Yes, there’s a however here. I think that neither company sees eye to eye nor does their approaches to game development seem to mesh very well.
If anything, sometimes, things just don’t work out and parting ways is the best thing you can do when it’s said and done.
Please note that this is an opinion article and does not reflect Blast Away the Game Review as a whole. Any and all thoughts presented are that of the writers and the writers alone.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.