AGDC '07: Blizzard president Mike Morhaime

  • AUSTIN, Texas--Earlier today, Blizzard president Mike Morhaime kicked from the Austin Game Developers Conference having a keynote address discussing the organization behind the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft.    
    With in excess of 9 million subscribers worldwide, the experience far outstripped the corporation's expectations. As Morhaime explained, that success brought along with it some unique problems. For example, when the overall game launched, Blizzard had to quit sending Warmane Gold boxed copies to retailers for any time since their servers couldn't handle much more users than were already playing.    
    Morhaime's keynote address also touched over a handful of larger issues inside industry, through the growing international presence in on the internet, to real-money trading of in-game items, and short shelf lives for the majority of games. The executive sat down with GameSpot to answer a couple of questions on those subjects, in addition to to discuss what happened while using company's aborted get back to consoles, regardless of if the success of World of Warcraft could serve to hold a Starcraft MMOG around the back burner, and ways in which it's managing Warcraft's big-screen adaptation.    
    GS: In your presentation, you talked around the Super Nintendo Entertainment System racing game RPM Racing, but didn't mention it by name. I've noticed I don't see much beyond World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft associated with all the Blizzard name anymore.    
    MM: When we started, our initial name was Silicon and Synapse. We kept that name for just a few years, then decided to put it back because it absolutely was high concept. Nobody really understood what it really meant. So we changed the name to Chaos Studios. Then we determined someone was with all the name Chaos Technologies, and they also wanted six figures for all of us to continue with it. So we picked different things, knowning that's once we switched to Blizzard, which has been about precisely the same time we started self-publishing our titles like Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. The console games weren't published beneath the Blizzard brand, that is why that you do not associate all of them Blizzard. A few years back, we finished up approaching Interplay and getting the rights to every one our earlier Interplay titles. So perform own the rights and did release some of which as Game Boy titles.    
    GS: Do you think titles like Lost Vikings, Blackthorne, and Justice League Task Force count as brand withdrawals?    
    MM: I think if we had been to do them today, they may. But in those days, a lot of them were actually decent titles. RPM Racing may well be an exception to that particular. We weren't particularly proud on the title, and now we banged out pretty quick.    
    GS: That was the way you guys started, three guys and $20,000. You didn't have a very lot of leverage with publishers in those days. Now, a lot in the AGDC panels and talks here touch about the issue of how independent or unknown developers might get much-needed attention for his or her projects. Having result from that bootstraps startup position yourself, how is really a startup currently with little funding with no leverage over publishers designed to break through in the big time?    
    MM: I think that there are a few opportunities ever since didn't exist some years ago. You've got platforms like Xbox Live Arcade, along with perhaps even portable games. Games don't have to become big anymore, so you might have a sell for smaller games that you can focus just on gameplay and creating something great without having a team of 50 people. And you'll be able to use those types of what you should build your development capabilities.    
    GS: You also stated that Blizzard wasn't prepared with the success of World of Warcraft, at the least not around the scope it had achieved. If WOW hadn't been a winner, what was the organization's plan B?    MM: I don't think there seemed to be any doubt that we'd a hit. It's just we didn't expect it to become such a success so soon. If it sold reasonably well, it absolutely was still going to become a successful title for many people.    
    GS: Does the overwhelming success from it mean that your hypothetical Starcraft MMOG can be pushed further out because you've got this thriving community that you don't wish to cannibalize?    
    MM: Not necessarily. It's actually more a matter of us unwilling to cannibalize the resources that happen to be going into supporting the action. We can't take the World of Warcraft team and also have them focus on another game. But whatever we can do is staff inside the World of Warcraft team and gradually peel from the lemon some of our developers to start working away at something new. But it'll take time. And we're on the stage right this moment where we're beginning think about what we should want to accomplish next.    
    GS: When you think you'll wish to talk about what you are doing next?    
    MM: Probably not for just a long time.    
    GS: You mentioned that Burning Crusade and Diablo both missed the holiday-release window, but both were successful despite the fact that. There's always been this huge buildup of blockbuster titles inside the fourth quarter, as well as a lot of analysts think it still is often a seasonal market. In your opinion, is gaming something can thrive yr a year, or does the market still pigeonhole itself in to the holiday market?    
    MM: I think yes e-mail. I agree with each one of that. I think it is a seasonal market, and should you look on the numbers, you'll find that. There can be a lift you have from being about the shelves from the fourth quarter. But I think all the more important than that will be the quality with the games, as well as the ones that merely aren't that good don't contain the shelf life from the ones that happen to be. And when you're sacrificing your life-span for your seasonal lift, I do not believe it [pans] out. It's hard to prove that, though, because it's not possible to do both things with one title.    
    GS: You talked about what sort of most important quarter for the publicly traded company may be the current quarter, and also the reward for exceeding expectations seems to become nothing but higher expectations. Given the explosive development of World of Warcraft, can there be any way you may match that same exponential curve, or do you could have to keep expectations grounded?    
    MM: We do try and keep our expectations conservative. We've always done that. We try to not forecast for that best possible scenarios. We try for being conservative and cautious, but I still think there's a wide range of potential inside online games market. I imagine that there really are a lot of international markets that haven't come online yet. There's a lot more we are able to do with World of Warcraft to keep the sport fresh and interesting. Also, we're working on other titles like Starcraft 2, and we have now other things planned that I'm not capable to talk about.    
    GS: Talking concerning the international market, we've seen a lots of games which might be huge hits like Lineage and Lineage II in Korea, but if they are delivered to other markets, they do not succeed all the. In your keynote, you said Blizzard advocates one game with kinds of play that entice each region. That can't be described as a one-size-fits-all solution, will it? Certainly you will discover successes that need to become tailored specifically into a region.    
    MM: That's true. That's merely our approach.    
    GS: Do you ever worry in regards to a jack-of-all-trades approach that shortchanges the overall game's potential?    
    MM: No, because I also mentioned sometimes after you make certain design decisions, that sometimes there can be a superior approach. So we're not dealing with decisions that induce an inferior game. We're referring to decisions that basically make the overall game better.    
    GS: Can you give an illustration?    
    MM: An example could be with Starcraft and Warcraft III--even World of Warcraft, I guess, would qualify with this. Our games work adequately in game rooms (Internet cafes) now because we know that you have game rooms. But could that, they worked adequately in game rooms because we considered the reality that you might wish to share the action with your family. One copy in the game, one system, four folks playing it. We designed the overall game to work well as environment, so you may each have your own personal profile and also be in different places within the single-player campaign. That allowed us for being a adequately-behaved game-room game. That's just knowing that different everyone is going to get enjoying your game differently.    
    GS: It's amazing that Starcraft is unavailable within a Korean-language edition. Will Starcraft II employ a Korean language version?    
    MM: [Laughs.] Absolutely.    
    GS: The out-of-game market exists because players in the action feel that whatever it really is they're thinking about buying is really worth real money for many years. Whether they bought or earned it, believe that it has value. How do you grab the value away from it to the gold farmers but leave players feeling that all of these gear as well as their gold is valuable?    
    MM: It's challenging. We monitor these activities, as well as some point, the amount of your energy they must spend for getting these items and transfer these phones another WOW player becomes a lot of, plus it's just don't worth their time. And there are specific factors in the overall game that were created to make it less desirable. For instance, a lot on the best items in the sport are soul-bound which enables it to't be transferred player to player.  
    GS: How often do you receive asked about Starcraft: Ghost?    
    MM: Pretty often.    
    GS: What happened with Starcraft: Ghost?    
    MM: We were late to market that has a game that has been not shaping up for being competitive to some with the other top games that have been coming out. We viewed it and realized that there were an awful wide range of work we necessary to do. Our window was closing about the older-generation platforms, so there was to make up your mind whether we'd basically take might know about'd done onto the following generation of hardware and start on your own. Ideally, we needed to release Ghost around the older generation and still have our sequel turn out on next-generation systems. And then we looked at all of the resource needs there were on the PC side from the business with World of Warcraft and our other titles, and now we just decided how the resources were spent better on focusing our efforts on our PC titles, and we all put Ghost on indefinite hold.     
    GS: Is cracking back to the console market still around the company's listing of objectives?    
    MM: It just isn't.    
    GS: Why was the console market worth getting into inside last generation, these days you're backing clear of it?    
    MM: We thought we might be in a position to do it without impacting our PC teams. We just had to create a priority call gets hotter became clear that we had arrived getting late towards the market using these things, and i was not creating an issue that would live up towards the Blizzard quality I've been speaking about without additional resources. Now it's pretty clear we really would use those resources helping us on World of Warcraft along with things. Ideally, you try to perform everything, but one of my points this morning involved not seeking to do everything at precisely the same time and focusing about what's important. And that's might know about did.    
    GS: Last year it didn't often matter what session you went to with the Austin Game Conference, everybody were discussing was World of Warcraft. Do you ever become ill of discovering it?    
    MM: Nope! [Laughs.]    
    GS: Well, you'll relish the rest of your respective stay in Austin then, I'm sure.    
    MM: One thing I'm really looking to is our Warcraft movie, which we are from the script phase of.    
    GS: Are you a cinephile?    
    MM: Well, I love movies.    
    GS: That counts. When did you start out to think which the games you were implementing could be movies?    MM: A period of time ago. We've been looking to get Hollywood thinking about our games provided that I can remember, going back for the Starcraft days. We ended up being pitching different studios, and that which you kept returning was, "Fantasy movies don't sell." Literally, that has been what they told us. We were like, "No you never understand, we want to generate a good fantasy movie. If you generate a good one, men and women see it."    
    Then Lord from the Rings arrived. And it absolutely was doing great. Harry Potter, there's a different one. Now they was required to admit fantasy movies would sell if we were holding good. And they said, "Yeah, your stuff's too much like Lord with the Rings, so we don't would like to go head-to-head achievable." We said, "Well OK, they're done."    
    Finally we hooked up while using Legendary Pictures guys. They're very excited. They seem to have it, plus they've created some excellent movies.    
    GS: Does it matter for you if it stars top-tier celebrities, or might you prefer they find unknowns to inherit the role?    
    MM: I'd like to view some names from it, but more valuable than that will be the quality in the acting, your production, the direction, and everything.    
    GS: Are there any hang-ups over it being a game title-based movie?    
    MM: Actually, one on the great things about Legendary is because don't have a look at it as a game-based movie, and neither can we. They examine it since this fantasy world that happens to own some games based upon it. It's a fantasy world that's sufficiently strong to stand on a unique, plus it deserves a movie that's sufficiently strong to stand on a unique.    
    GS: Are Starcraft and Diablo sufficiently strong enough worlds that they can could stand on the own in movies?    
    MM: Absolutely. Now more ways to buy bargain Warmane Gold, as an example, visit official MMOAH site