Gamasutra caught up with Blizzard's Samwise Didier and J. Allen Brack for a lengthy conversation about the early days of the Warcraft franchise, World of Warcraft's crazy success, their commitment to PC gaming, and much more.
How invested do you feel in the broader PC market? Blizzard's safety is probably not in question, but do you worry about a less vibrant PC ecosystem going forward?
SD: I don't see the PC market as being bad. I mean, we didn't have 12 million players ten years ago. Whatever the format, console or PC, I think if there is a good game, it's going to be played. We're working on PC because it's familiar to us and it's relatively easy and it's not changing formats every other year and there aren't three different versions. Console, we have to worry about [those things]. I think the PC is really a good market to target.
JAB: It's obviously because we've made only PC games for the last 15 years, but there's a perception, I think, that Blizzard is anti-console, and that's absolutely not the case. We just want to make the right game for the right platform. Think about StarCraft II. Some real-time strategy games have tried to happen on the console. Some of those have been successful, but overall, our experience is that it's going to be a better game on the PC, ergo it's developed on the PC.
It's very similar with World of Warcraft. We developed the game for the PC. It's a very PC-centric control scheme and the way of playing the game is PC-centric. But we're a company of gamers. I have two consoles at home. Sam has consoles. We're a culture of gamers. We will definitely work on a console game at some point. I have no doubt about that. It's just [a matter of] what game. What makes the most sense?
People from Blizzard have said when they started working on World of Warcraft, they were targeting subscriber counts of a few hundred thousand or so, because that was what had been previously demonstrated in MMOs. Why do you think Blizzard's success has been so uniquely massive in the traditional subscription-driven space?
SD: I can tell you that, dealing with dark powers, we've made allegiances with things that we probably shouldn't, but we don't talk about that. He who shall not be named has told me not to talk about it.
Really, it's kind of a stupid answer, but I think Warcraft is just an easy world to get into. Everybody knows some little bit of fantasy, whether it's from playing Dungeons & Dragons when they were kids, or reading Lord of the Rings. It's a pretty simple world to get into immediately. As far as the game itself, the reason why it's so popular is it's just a fun game. If the game sucked, no one would be playing it. It's just a fun game.
JAB: I think the archetypes for fantasy games are well known. Our generation has kind of grown up, as Sammy said, with D&D and Lord of the Rings. It's really weird as a kid to be the outcast.
SD: Outcast is a little cool and powerful. I'd say the dork, the geek.
JAB: Okay, to be surrounded by other geek guys who were looked upon with disdain. Being that guy as a kid, and then growing up, we've [seen] the rise of geek culture and the takeover of geek culture -- shows like Fringe and Heroes that could never have existed on TV just a few years ago. Movies like Dark Knight and Iron Man. Things that, years ago, would've bombed. The generation is starting to be itself and be part of the world. Here's a game that really resonates with a lot of people who had that experience.