"We aren't in a situation where we feel that we're untouchable."
Such were the sentiments expressed by Blizzard Entertainment cofounder Frank Pearce in an interview with GameSpot during last week's BlizzCon 2008. Humble words, but if there were anything in the game industry that could be considered untouchable, it would be Blizzard's World of Warcraft. After all, the game boasts nearly 11 million players worldwide, a figure several times larger than the closest competition.
"We feel we've done a great job with WOW, but there's definitely a lot of talent in the industry," said Pearce. "There's going to be a game that comes along that tops WOW--hopefully it will be our game, but who knows. We'll have to wait and see. Even in the event that happens, hopefully WOW will still be a viable experience for many of our fans."
Many, namely those making massively multiplayer online games, are hoping that game comes along sooner rather than later. In an interview with MTV shortly before Warhammer Online launched, Mythic head Mark Jacobs said, "If we don't succeed with EA behind us, the Warhammer IP behind us, with one of the most experienced teams in the industry, that's not going to be good for the industry."
How does Blizzard take these kinds of comments? "It depends on what someone means when they say it's not good for the industry," Pearce told GameSpot. "As a whole, the MMO genre has exploded in terms of the size of the market. When we launched in Europe originally...we launched to a bigger base than the experts said was the size of the market. The market has grown incredibly over the last five years or so, so that's a good thing for everyone."
World of Warcraft may be Blizzard's bread and butter, but the company is far from a one-trick pony. Also on the horizon are Starcraft II and Diablo III. With both traditionally being PC games, Pearce also addressed how Blizzard plans to handle the omnipresent problem of piracy that plagues the desktop market.
"We learned a lot in terms of minimizing piracy with World of Warcraft," he said. "Everyone that wants the full experience has to play connected to the World of Warcraft servers. So we're definitely talking about ways with Battle.net that we can provide the best online experience for our customers so that there's not an incentive to pirate the product but instead an incentive to be part of that community of gamers playing that game and they'd want to be part of that social experience on top of the single-player experience. We have some ideas--nothing specific in terms of technology but more in terms of the experience online."
Speaking of Starcraft II, GameSpot also sat down with Blizzard VP of game design Rob Pardo, who shed more light on the decision to break the sci-fi real-time strategy game into three separate products. As revealed with much fanfare at the show, Starcract II will now be broken into three games, with the Terran campaign Wings of Liberty leading, followed by Zerg: Heart of the Swarm, and then Protoss: Legacy of the Void.
"The main reason that we decided to do Starcraft II as a trilogy--rather than the way we've done previous games where we include all three campaigns--is really the size and the scope of the story we wanted to tell," commented Pardo. "We learned pretty early on that if we really wanted to have a really interesting, branching story and to have all these different characters and all these different resources, it ended up being an entire game just to tell one campaign story. And then we really got faced with that hard decision of, 'OK, well, what are we going to do? Do we go back to the Warcraft III approach so that we can include all three campaigns, or do we go ahead and just treat each race as its own product?'"
Pardo was also quick to emphasize that Starcraft II's multiplayer component will in no way be adversely affected by Blizzard's decision to split the game up into a trilogy.
"One of the things that comes out of the decision to ship as a trilogy is that it really only affects the single-player campaign," he said. "The multiplayer will still be fully featured with all three races, so there's not going to be any emphasis on the Terrans in multiplayer as opposed to the Zerg and the Protoss. All three races will be fully featured, similar number of units, equal amount of production behind all of them. It's only the single-player that's affected by the trilogy decision."
Check out GameSpot's BlizzCon 2008 hub for the rest of the news and previews from this year's show.