Imagine being someone who loves video games – and even more to the point, someone who likes developing them as well as playing them.
Now imagine being employed at one of the biggest studios in the entire industry. World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Destiny 2, and of course the famed Diablo series are all coming from this studio – sounds like a great place to work, doesn’t it?
In this scenario, yes. But there’s always more than meets the eye. Fans of Blizzard found that out the hard way at a recent BlizzCon event where Diablo Immortal was announced as the next entry in the fan-favorite series. Immortal is a mobile-only game, and recent reports indicate the studio is dedicating a lot of their resources toward this market.
But there is a problem – fans have vocally rejected the change. With dislikes, criticisms, and even drops in stock prices all coming as a result of the studio’s new direction, everyone from fans to shareholders are taking notice. Now imagine how things are for the employees.
Reports suggest morale is low. There are rumors that Blizzard employees are working second jobs, driving taxis to make ends meet despite working for such a financially successful studio. The reports also suggest the studio calls their hit game Overwatch a loss simply because it didn’t rise to the top spot of the first-person shooter genre. A free trial version available for six days plus a $15 sale price in the spirit of Black Friday could bolster sales of this title.
Lower salaries and even lower morale could be the result of new management, which, by all accounts, made the organization much different than it was before. There is even a feeling among some that the public is seeking any dirt they can find as a result of the Immortal reveal.
One of the original minds behind Diablo, David Brevik, recently weighed in on the situation. Speaking of the prospective thought process of the studio while admitting it was not 100 percent the case, Brevik said: “Okay, we’re going to get rid of the [employee] profit-sharing program. We don’t like this. We don’t like the fact that low-level employees make decent money at Blizzard. We’re gonna get rid of this program because we need more profits to increase our stock price.”
Brevik clarified he didn’t have any inside information, nor any proof the stepping down of co-founder Michael Morhaime had anything to do with the sudden changes. But it is easy to assume his take on the situation is accurate. It makes sense, and there’s a lot of evidence to show the bad changes happened as soon as the managerial shift occurred.
It could be a matter of a studio experimenting and going through rough patches, or it could simply be another story of game developers being out of touch with their player base. Perhaps the only thing more valuable to them than their customers are their employees – and if they don’t change things, they may lose those employees.