To coincide with this past weekend's BlizzCon, IGN has cranked out a four-page "History of Blizzard" feature that takes us through the early Warcraft days, the acquisition of Condor and their Diablo project, the enormous success of World of Warcraft, and more.
Every fan knows that the next step in the expansion of the Blizzard empire was a game called Diablo. The title was actually developed by Condor Games, a separate studio that was working for Blizzard. In 1996 Blizzard acquired Condor and renamed it Blizzard North, giving the company a campus in UC Irvine and in San Mateo California. Early the next year Diablo launched into the open arms of dungeon crawlers everywhere.
The premise behind Diablo is deceptively simple, and though there have been countless other action-RPGs, all current references to the genre inevitably lead back to this one extremely popular game. The combat involved little more than pointing the mouse and clicking away, but the leveling structure, the interface, and of course the loot, made Diablo insanely addictive. And perhaps more important than the game itself was the service it came bundled with: Battle.net.
All over the internet players were beginning to take their games online through third party clients or subscription based services. Blizzard had seen how the life of Warcraft had been extended through online multiplayer and they decided to package a simple, free, online gaming service with their latest product. The original feature set of Battle.net was bare-bones by today's standards: you could chat and you could search for a match. But it was quick, functional, and eventually profitable due to the millions of ad impressions it generated. Blizzard had made an important foray into online gaming. It would surely pay off down the road.