Activision Blizzard loves making money.
So much so, that their Chief Executive Officer, Bobby Kotick, during their most recent earnings call began his statement with: “We once again achieved record results in 2018.” What followed the now infamous announcement of 800 individual layoffs, but that’s a different story altogether.
A few of the company’s entities: Overwatch, the Overwatch League, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty and Hearthstone have reliably brought in income for the company in recent years. Heroes of the Storm, on the other hand, has struggled to convert fans into consistent spenders. As a result, recent cuts were made to the title's development team.
This isn’t a recent development either.
All a die-hard fan of the game has to do is visit Blizzard’s official gear shop online or at Blizzard Tournaments and you will see very, very little Heroes of the Storm merchandise. Why this is so perplexing is the concept of Heroes lends itself well to merchandising.
Where else can you purchase a t-shirt featuring characters from three separate Blizzard IP's in the same universe? With the vast number of iconic characters within Blizzard franchises all being in one game, the opportunities are endless.
It's not due to a lack of interest, either. Video game franchises such as Super Smash Bros., Kingdom Hearts, Soul Calibur, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and Mortal Kombat have all thrived large-in-part because of the crossover appeal.
There are a couple of ways that the Heroes team can drive revenue out of their remaining customers and, possibly attract new ones. They require a bit of creativity and, financially, Blizzard may not want to dedicate the resources to try milking what is left of the Heroes' cow. But, I have compiled a few ideas that can be explored or, ideally, implemented.
Touching up the Gear store
If Activision Blizzard wants to put their creative and marketing team to work, they have the ability to utilize their aforementioned crossover appeal and bring in some cash.
One look at the Blizzard Gear store paints a picture into how the company currently views the title: outdated, dreary, dull.
The vast majority of the available merchandise has been sitting there for months. If you’re a die-hard Heroes of the Storm fan, you likely already own one of their basic t-shirts or a hat with the title’s name. An opportunistic decision was made to create a “line” or merchandise around the game’s first unique hero, Orphea, right around BlizzCon of last year.
Outside of the two apparel options above, there isn’t much.
Interestingly, Activision Blizzard is still selling merchandise regarding the Heroes Global Championship (HGC) pro league that they stated they would no longer be supporting...at full price. Long-time fans of the competitive circuit are unlikely to pay full price for clothing that reminds them of something that Blizzard killed.
If Blizzard wants to liquidate their backlog of Heroes of the Storm merchandise sitting in a warehouse collecting dust, they can/should drop the price significantly or make public some of the exclusive developer-team-only shirts that have appeared during in-game events in the past.
Getting 20 cents on the dollar is better than nothing, right?
Buying the entire game
Within the Heroes of the Storm client, Activision Blizzard has taken steps to monetize the game better than they have in the past but more can be done. Recently, the team announced that all cosmetics in the game can be purchased with Gems, which can be bought from the shop. Previously, players could only use Shards for the vast majority of cosmetics. Or, if they were feeling lucky, they could purchase Loot Boxes and hope for the best.
There does exist a couple of low-risk, high-reward propositions that the Heroes team could explore if they want to make a boom within the community while bringing in serious money.
Both ideas go hand-and-hand but the concept is simple: give the players the option to buy everything outright. For a one-time price of a drastically reduced amount, players can purchase every single Hero in the game currently and going forward.
For new(er) players who want to jump right into the game, shelling out a fixed price for 80 characters may be more appealing than grinding for them over time. The offer can be extended to all cosmetics in the title as well but, I imagine, that would be significantly more expensive and harder to calculate.
Another option that the company is familiar with is making content available through a "Season Pass." Already implemented in Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, players are able to purchase a Season Pass which allows them to unlock exclusive content outright or expedites their ability to unlock it through playing the game for a certain period of time.
This differs from the Stimpack that currently exists in the game in that a player could purchase a "Season 6 Season Pass" for a one-time price and, all cosmetics that are released during that time period are included, easily grindable, etc.
It’s a reach but if Activision Blizzard can provide a way for a singular player’s lifetime spending on one of their titles to be in the hundreds of dollars, depending on the proposed bundle, they’ll sleep well at night for a game they aren’t dedicating many resources to.
Not all ideas will appeal to every individual but giving fans the option to spend money in and out of the game, outside of the current options, doesn't hurt.
Time will tell as to how creative the company gets, if at all when it comes to providing new and unique ways for their remaining playerbase to spend their money on a game they love but there are options. Perhaps, Heroes, who wanted to separate themselves in the MOBA market from League of Legends and DOTA 2, should take a step back and look at what has financially worked in this genre. League in 2018 generated over $1.4 billion in revenue during the calendar year despite being free-to-play, like Heroes.
Maybe, for a change, try to be like everyone else opposed to standing out. What's there to lose at this point?
Tim Rizzo is the editor and a reporter for Inven Global. He joined the company back in 2017.