This year's BlizzCon was the event where J. Allen Brack announced his appointment to the new CEO of Blizzard. Beginning as the production director of World of Warcraft, Mr. Brack has been working at Blizzard for the past 12 years and was appointed to the vice president until recently.
This BlizzCon must’ve been quite an event for him, as it’s been only 5 weeks since his appointment. Once a developer mainly in charge of World of Warcraft, he’s now in charge of the whole company.
How is he planning to run the company? What does he think about Diablo Immortal, which was the biggest issue of BlizzCon this year? We had an opportunity to meet him and hear his thoughts.
Q. You have developed Diablo Immortal with NetEase which may seem like a coproduction or an outsourcing of the IP. Many companies that are actively developing mobile games in countries such as South Korea and Japan dream of working with Blizzard. What are the conditions to work together and would you be willing to accept future coproduction offers?
The relationship between NetEase and Blizzard has been going for more than 10 years now and we maintain a natural partnership. We evaluated the product publishing of Diablo Immortal in various aspects. Even if we decide to share other game IPs apart from Diablo, we’ll have to consider many things, not just one or two elements. However, we did form a partnership with NetEase for Diablo Immortal, but we primarily focused on developing the game on our end.
Like I said before, we don’t have a definite answer. What’s certain is that we are not at a stage of assigning the development to other companies; Blizzard will still be in charge of development processes. It is difficult to say yet how things will turn out in the future.
Q. Michael Morhaime was highly interested in esports. What are the upcoming plans for esports business?
I’ve watched HotS matches for all of Saturday last week and then the match of sOs on the next day. I heard that he won against Maru today. Esports such as Overwatch and StarCraft 2 have always been my interest and I personally took charge in directing World of Warcraft as well, so I've spent almost 10 years watching esports.
Q. What’s the stance of Blizzard in relation to AR and VR-related games?
I agree that VR and AR games will have significant influence in the future. But, they require high-end technology, so we don’t have a specific plan for making these kinds of games yet.
As you know, Blizzard is a step away from following the latest technology like Early Adaptor. We have been focusing on thinking about how to show the existing genre and games to players rather than doing something for the very first time worldwide. Warcraft was not the first RTS and World of Warcraft was not the first MMORPG. However, we used strengths that only Blizzard was capable of and developed our own strategies and our own MMORPG.
Although we are not planning to develop VR or AR games -- for now, I want to tell you that we’ll definitely be able to demonstrate Blizzard’s VR and AR games sometime [in the future].
Q. Destiny Guardians and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 are currently on Battle.net. Is it exclusive to Activision, or are you planning to expand the platform to other games?
I’m proud that games such as Destiny Guardians and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 are on Battle.net. It’s already significant enough having two games on Battle.net, but it holds meaning to the community as well. Players are giving us positive feedback and inspiration. But, having other games which are not related to Blizzard on Battle.net is going to be the next step. We’re still thinking of when this step will be. We’ll announce if we decide to have other games on Battle.net in the future.
Q. Can we then assume that famous games from Activision will continue to be added to Battle.net?
It is difficult to say firmly that all the other games of Activision on Battle.net will be as promising as titles such as Destiny Guardians and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, so please understand that we can’t guarantee which titles will be on the client.
Q. How are you planning to run Blizzard as the successor of Michael Morhaime?
Mike was a friend before he was a CEO, and I was influenced quite heavily by that too. He made huge contributions to make the company developer-focused and he took great pride in these values. Just like Michael Morhaime and Frank Pearce, our objective is for Blizzard to strive as long as possible. A franchising company that continues to survive without being affected by an executive stepping down. Providing the best experiences and franchises to future generations is the biggest dream and goal to me as a CEO. It’s a big responsibility that makes me nervous, but also excited, and we’ll keep working on maintaining the Blizzard culture.
Q. How is it different attending BlizzCon as a CEO compared to the last times when you attended as a developer?
Being more nervous is the biggest difference I suppose (laugh). This Opening Ceremony too - it’s not a common opportunity to meet players at a big place like this as a developer. As the CEO, I’ll be seeing more people in bigger places. I’d,therefore like to say that this BlizzCon was full of responsibilities and tension for me.
I was usually managing other games while focusing on World of Warcraft before. Now, Blizzard will be the center of my thoughts and various franchises including World of Warcraft will follow. It’s been 5 weeks since the appointment, and although it’s hard to say that I took over everything, I’ll definitely run Blizzard in the most optimal way with responsibility.
Q. There are some people who can’t control their gameplay time. What do you think about this?
It’s not only children, but there are adults who can’t control their time as well. There is a system that can help players who are having such an issue in World of Warcraft, and it’s now in every game on Battle.net. If it seems that other games will need the same feature, we’ll consider adapting or modifying it to each game.