Blizzard would have a place in hall of fame, if there were one. Is Blizzard the all time champion? I'm not sure, because "best" is an ambiguous word, but I'm leaning toward no.
The Case For Blizzard
- The Warcraft IP helped to define not one, but two entire genres. RTS back in the 1990s, and MMORPG in the 2000s.
- Warcraft and Starcraft have been a staples of e-sports since that industry's modern form came into existence.
- Blizzard has always been a revenue powerhouse, particularly thanks to World of Warcraft and its subscription model. Today, over a decade since launch, WoW has 5.5 million subscribers.
- Blizzard developed 5 of the top 20 PC games of all time by unit sales (WoW, SC1, SC2, Diablo II, Diablo III)
- Blizzard is adapting with the changing market to focus on free-to-play business models. They will remain very profitable for years to come.
The Case Against Blizzard
- Blizzard didn't actually establish those two genres, and they never competed in them alone. The RTS format was laid out first by Dune II. In MMORPGs they were preceded by Origin Systems/EA (Ultima Online), Sony (Everquest), and Turbine/Microsoft (Asheron's Call).
- Blizzard's titles are not the best selling of all time. Yes, their PC sales are very strong, but across all platforms their numbers are unimpressive against developers whose games are released on PC and consoles. It doesn't seem fair to give the all time champion award to a company that is only a titan on one platform.
- Revenue and unit sales may not even be relevant because Blizzard hasn't been in charge of its own money since the release of the first Warcraft back in the 90s. Since then, they've had a string of parent companies. The current owner is Activision. How much credit does a subsidiary developer get for a game's financial success since they don't control the budget, marketing, branding, advertising, distribution, etc.?
- Blizzard (and its parent companies) have been criticized by gamers for greedy tactics. Charging retail price + subscription, then also charging for expansion packs, and then adding microtransactions is just too much for some people. As well, the carefully crafted reward schedule, sometimes called the "grind treadmill", has been described as addictive. Should this award go to a company whose product has caused actual harm to some users by being too addictive?
Assorted Notes About Other Companies
- If publishers can be considered, then EA needs to be in the conversation based on sheer size. They have developed or published all The Sims, Sim City, Ultima Online (mentioned above), EA Sports, Battlefield, Dragon Age, Need For Speed, Mass Effect, Crysis, Star Wars: TOR, and so many more. However, they have the absolute worst reputation among gamers for being greedy.
- Valve is noteworthy for Counter Strike, Half Life, Portal, and others. Excellent reputation among gamers, and known for innovation and creativity. However, they are best known for revolutionizing PC game retail with their Steam distribution service. They literally changed the face of the PC gaming industry by moving retail online, and opening a big door for indie developers.
- Nintendo's legacy is worth something, and they're still relevant today. You'd never guess it, but 14 of the top 30 top selling games are Nintendo products. Blizzard only has one title on that list (Diablo III). They have a bigger library of truly "classic" IP than anyone else. However, they could rightly be docked points for relying too heavily on the old-but-gold material while largely failing to create new big franchises.
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