How much Activision does it take to change a Blizzard?

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Blizzard is tightening its belt. Employees are being offered buyouts, department budgets are being reduced, and the development cadence is being increased with a company directive to make more money. The freewheeling Blizzard is done. According to independent sources speaking to Kotaku and Eurogamer, the cost-cutting comes as Activision increases its influence via leadership changes at Blizzard.

For much of its existence, the Activision-Blizzard relationship has been fairly benign. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and Blizzard President and co-founder Mike Morhaime seemed to have an understanding that each company’s culture was best left as-is. While Activision made bank with annual Call of Duty releases, Blizzard followed an irregular, but no less lucrative, schedule based on growing a loyal ecosystem of fans. That all changed at the beginning of the year. New leadership at Blizzard, mostly folks coming in from Activision, brought strategies focused on profitability and oversight. Key components of the new direction is an increase in the pace of product creation while reducing company spend. The recent announcement of Heroes of the Storm staff being moved to other projects being an example of Blizzard looking more critically at its resource allocations. According to ex-employees, Morhaime’s retirement from Blizzard in October capped an end to the old way of doing business.

“A lot of people are worried about the future of Blizzard – if the Activision method seeps in more, what that’s going to become.”

An optimistic view on the issue would be to celebrate the idea of more Blizzard games. It remains to be seen if changing the company’s operations gives us more games without killing the goose.