Interview with Mike Morhaime the CEO of Blizzard Entertainment about BlizzCon 2017, Blizzard, and Overwatch League

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▲ Michael Morhaime, CEO and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment.

 

It is never easy to open gameshows with a company’s own IP, because simply having a big lineups or successful IP does not just make it go well. A company needs to have a variety of solid groundwork as well as the players’ enthusiastic support and loyalty, which apparently is not easy to get. This is how Blizzard Entertainment has continued to be successful with their BlizzCon for 11 years. We had the chance to meet Mike Morhaime, CEO and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment, and ask him several things about BlizzCon, Blizzard, Overwatch League, and more.

 


 

This is the 11th BlizzCon. Compared to last year, there were many more announcements about the games themselves rather than announcements for sutff outside the games. Was it intended to be like that?


I think it’s different for every BlizzCon. We had so much new content this year as well, and we tried to show a variety of things for each franchise. We also got to talk a lot about the Overwatch League- we announced our sponsorship contract with HP and Intel, and we also had updates on each team’s names and logos. We’ve also been handling various activities with our partners. The regular season for the Overwatch League will start on January 11th.



We’d like to know how you intended BlizzCon to be.


BlizzCon is a place where we get to thank our players and share what we’ve been working on so far. What’s most important about this is that we can get feedback from them. I believe that communicating with our players in person is most important.


BlizzCon is also a great chance for our devs to experience how their work is received by the players, and work enthusiastically again. I think BlizzCon is like a link that connects Blizzard and the community.

 

 

A lot of emphasis was put on World of Warcraft at BlizzCon this year; what does WoW mean to Blizzard?


WoW is a game with a very powerful community. It has been 13 years since it first came out, and 23 years for its IP. WoW has already become a part of players’ lives. It is the game with the most powerful social aspect among other online games in the current market.


Being able to have adventures in different fantasy worlds has given the game community a certain bond and intimacy. The game has even led to people meeting lifelong friends or start dating. This is why we look forward to strengthening this aspect, including multiple access, in the future.


There are many different people in a community, and they all have different playstyles. Some want to keep on experiencing the new while some miss the past, like the first launch of the game. We tried to satisfy everyone in this year’s BlizzCon.


We announced the classic version for people who miss the old game as well as new expansion packs for people who want new content. Both sides have been satisfied in BlizzCon.

 


▲Blizzard wanted to satisfy the desires of both player groups.



It seems that one of the top businesses for Blizzard is the contract with broadcasters.


We don’t have anything we can announce in details, though we will later.



There has been word among players that “new updates for Blizzard games come out slowly”. We’d like to know how you’re trying to come up with a solution for that.


For us, it is very important to keep supporting our games and players. We are spending a lot of resources and time to prepare them. I’m glad that we could announce the updates for our existing games via BlizzCon. We focused on announcing updates for our existing games rather than new games this time, and we will try our best to deliver the best gaming experience for our players in the future.



Many fans are worried that the Overwatch League is becoming a threat to APEX as it became integrated into the League. They say having major leagues is important, but, it will threaten the farm system; what is your opinion on this?


Overwatch League is just at the starting point right now. Many skillful players are being recruited in several leagues. Many came from APEX, which is a healthy thing considering how the ecosystem is.


Leagues like APEX all around the world act as motivation to players below that league. In fact, there are various players, from amateurs to pros, in traditional sports, and advancing to higher leagues becomes a motivation to players, helping to create a good ecosystem.


Overwatch League can motivate challengers from each region with its high rewards. Various partnerships are possible globally, as you can see from our contract with HP and Intel. I think it is a good ecosystem since it provides the team owners with the chance to advertise their brands.

▲ Many efforts are being made to promote the ecosystem by keeping the minimum salary 50,000$.

 

You once said that esports is a fanservice for players in your previous interview. But it seems to be getting too commercial, based on how things are turning out.


Continuing a business that is steady and has growth potential is crucial. The most important part of this is whether it has the possibility of being a sustainable investment or not. Owners of other esports leagues fail to retrieve their investment and continue to lose their money. That is why having a good ecosystem, in which investors can retrieve as much as they invest, will greatly influence the lifespan of a league.


Overwatch League can expect investment and commercialization for the games between home teams and visiting teams in arenas. What the owners of traditional sports teams do can be also done in the Overwatch League. A successful league leads to further success for Overwatch, which leads to more fans.


Eventually, the problem is not about choosing either money or the ecosystem. Having a good ecosystem will allow profits to be made from Overwatch, and businesses will be able to prosper, so these two things do not contradict each other. If things go great for the league, it’s also great for the team owners and their partners.



Was there anything from BlizzCon that you were personally most satisfied with?


It’d be the cinematic trailer for World of Warcraft.

 


▲The best trailer Mike Morhaime picked.



A shiver went through my body when I saw that cinematic trailer. Do you plan to make more trailers as long as this?


We haven’t discussed it in details yet, but I think the idea is definitely a great one.



The stage was great with the voice actor for Reinhardt. How long did it take to plan the stage directions for BlizzCon?


It took us one or two months to prepare the stage direction in details. We’ve put so much care into it. The planning takes even longer, and we will be planning for the next BlizzCon starting from next Monday (6th).



Can you please tell us what Blizzard will be preparing for next year?


We haven’t discussed it yet, We will be discussing it starting Monday.



Can we look forward to a 2nd movie?


We want to tell the players the story via various methods of storytelling. WoW was the first game for that and we plan to make different attempts in order to do so. Although we don’t have anything we can disclose in detail right now.



PUBG has been gaining world popularity as well as in South Korea. What is your take on this game?


It is a very impressive game. I think that the way it is gaining popularity worldwide is great. It is good when other games are doing great, from the industry perspective.

 

 

The excitement for Starcraft Remastered hasn’t stayed the same since it first came out. How do you feel about that?


I think the player reaction to Starcraft Remastered is very positive. It was a title we made to pay back our players for playing Starcraft for the past 17 years. We updated the game based on our recent infrastructure for this, and I believe that we were successful in its launch. The community reaction was good. I believe that players will be able to keep on playing for years through Starcraft Remastered.



Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to the fans in South Korea?


BlizzCon is a festival where we show our gratitude for players all around the world and pay back their support since we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. 

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