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About 12 billion hours of Blizzard games were played and 50 million new players joined the Blizzard community this year, according to Blizzard President Mike Ybarra, who posted an update reflecting back on 2022.
Additionally, Blizzard is bringing back BlizzCon. More information will be available early next year.
Hey everyone! It’s been about a year since my last post, and with 2022 coming to an end, I felt it was a good time for an update.
2022 has been a great year for Blizzard, made possible by the hard work, creativity, and passion of everyone who works here, and the support, feedback, and joy from the players. Putting people first—employees and players—is how we’re building the foundation of the next era of Blizzard.
A lot of this work has been internal, but I hope you can see the results of it in our games: the joy and love for Azeroth in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, the color and scale of seasonal updates in Overwatch 2, the care and respect in Wrath of the Lich King Classic and Diablo II: Resurrected, the creativity and charm in Hearthstone, and the gameplay and rich story built into Diablo Immortal. We also got to show off the chaotic glee built into Warcraft Arclight Rumble, and finally the Diablo IV team got to relish in the excitement with a recently announced June 6, 2023 launch date.
About 12 billion hours of Blizzard games were played this year, and as many as 50 million new players joined the Blizzard community*, and this would not have been possible if not for the passion from the people within Blizzard. We’re hearing from them that there is a fundamental shift happening, and it’s the thousands of people who work here who are steering this ship toward something greater than we’ve ever been—and we’ve only just begun.
To give some clarity on what’s happened this year, I promised in January that we would hire full-time positions to support the ongoing work of improving the culture at Blizzard.
We welcomed Jessica Martinez as our VP of Culture, a brand-new role at Blizzard. We announced Makaiya Brown as our DE&I lead. We have welcomed a new Chief People Officer this year, J.D. Roux. Additionally, we’ve made several important changes to our teams:
Blizzard cofounder Allen Adham, Chief Design Officer: Championing game design as a discipline, helping to ensure we keep Blizzard gameplay at the forefront of the player experience. Holly Longdale, Executive Producer of World of Warcraft: After leading WoW Classic, Holly now oversees all of World of Warcraft, bringing her deep MMO experience to the fore. Jared Neuss, Executive Producer for Overwatch 2: Taking a holistic approach toward building a great live-service experience for this incredible universe. Peiwen Yao, Executive Producer for Diablo Immortal: Leading the co-development partnership for our debut mobile-first title. April McKee, Executive Producer of BlizzCon: Yes, we’re bringing BlizzCon back—more on that early next year! Mike Elliott, Chief Technology Officer: A Blizzard veteran and engineering’s leading voice, overseeing technical evaluations, recommendations, and execution. Dan Hay, General Manager of Survival Game: Leading the team which is infusing this genre with Blizzard magic while crafting our first new IP since Overwatch. The team has doubled in size this year and we’re looking to grow it even more in the new year! *New Battle.net accounts created and at least 1 Blizzard game played. Rebuilding the Foundations
While we have full-time roles dedicated to culture, culture isn’t the work of one person or team. It involves all of us every day, and it requires perspectives and insights of different experiences, backgrounds, functions, and identities. To this end, we convened a culture team consisting of a wide array of functions across Blizzard who are helping us improve how we work, and create and sustain a culture that makes all of us better.
One of the other major projects this year has been taking a deep look at the mission, vision and values upon which Blizzard was built. We have been talking about how these values are interpreted and lived, how they could be improved or modernized, and everyone at Blizzard had the chance to have their voice heard in this critical work. This is a project that our employees, as well as players, will see the results of in the new year.
We’ve also made solid progress advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I): we held a successful fourth Women's Summit, we deployed DE&I-focused training across all employees, we’ve expanded self-identification options to be more inclusive, and over the past year, we increased the percentage representation of women and non-binary people within Blizzard from 22% to 25% while also increasing the percentage of employees from under-represented ethnic groups from 34% to 36%. While this is progress, our commitment is that our focus on culture and inclusion will be a core part of our everyday efforts at Blizzard. This work will never be done. For you – our players – our hope is that you are seeing it in our games, the way we communicate, and more. We’re learning along the way, and it’s all of you who are keeping us on the right track.
We have received a lot of feedback this year, and our teams are always listening—as we grow in these areas, we have had important moments that help us learn and be better. Our players are always quick to let us know what they are thinking and feeling, and for that, I want to thank you. I’m three years into my journey at Blizzard, and not long into having the privilege of playing a small role in leading Blizzard forward. It’s inspiring to work here: every day, I learn from Blizzard and learn from you, and as we close out 2022, I couldn’t be more thankful for that.
Finally, to our wonderful teams at Blizzard: thank you. We’re on a journey together to create an amazing culture that fosters and enables creative energy and fresh thinking. Together we’re bringing Blizzard back, better than ever.
Take care this holiday season: spend time with loved ones, your favorite games, your favorite movies and books, and take the time for yourselves. We’ll be doing the same.
I’ll see you in Azeroth, Sanctuary, the tavern, and in the optimistic vision of the future!
- Mike “Qwik” Ybarra
As was was expected, the US Federal Trade Commission has now voted and filed a suit to block Microsoft's $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, saying the deal would harm competition. As reported by Bloomberg, the commission voted 3-1 on the matter and already filed the suit. The proceedings usually take from several months to a year to resolve, and here's what Holly Vedova, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition had to say:
Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals. Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets. Microsoft has been trying to address the exclusivity issues recently, offering 10 year Call of Duty availability deals to Steam, Nintendo and Sony, to assuage their concerns about Activision Blizzard titles becoming available on Microsoft platforms only, as the main focal point of the exclusivity discussion has been Activision's premiere FPS franchise.
This also isn't the only legislative opposition the merger faces, as both UK and EU organizations and legislative bodies are in the process of evaluating whether the deal can be approved. When it comes to the FTC, since Lina Khan was appointed to lead the agency in 2021, it has successfully blocked mergers between Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings as well as Nvidia ’s attempt to buy ARM.
Here's the full press release from the FTC:
FTC Seeks to Block Microsoft Corp.’s Acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Inc.
Agency alleges that maker of Xbox would gain control of top video game franchises, enabling it to harm competition in high-performance gaming consoles and subscription services by denying or degrading rivals’ access to its popular content December 8, 2022 The Federal Trade Commission is seeking to block technology giant Microsoft Corp. from acquiring leading video game developer Activision Blizzard, Inc. and its blockbuster gaming franchises such as Call of Duty, alleging that the $69 billion deal, Microsoft’s largest ever and the largest ever in the video gaming industry, would enable Microsoft to suppress competitors to its Xbox gaming consoles and its rapidly growing subscription content and cloud-gaming business.
In a complaint issued today, the FTC pointed to Microsoft’s record of acquiring and using valuable gaming content to suppress competition from rival consoles, including its acquisition of ZeniMax, parent company of Bethesda Softworks (a well-known game developer). Microsoft decided to make several of Bethesda's titles including Starfield and Redfall Microsoft exclusives despite assurances it had given to European antitrust authorities that it had no incentive to withhold games from rival consoles.
“Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals,” said Holly Vedova, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.”
Microsoft’s Xbox Series S and Series X are one of only two types of high performance video game consoles. Importantly, Microsoft also offers a leading video game content subscription service called Xbox Game Pass, as well as a cutting-edge cloud-based video game streaming service, according to the complaint.
Activision is one of only a very small number of top video game developers in the world that create and publish high-quality video games for multiple devices, including video game consoles, PCs, and mobile devices. It produces some of the most iconic and popular video game titles, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Overwatch, and has a combined 154 million monthly active users around the world, according to the FTC’s complaint. Activision currently has a strategy of offering its games on many devices regardless of producer.
But that could change if the deal is allowed to proceed. With control over Activision’s blockbuster franchises, Microsoft would have both the means and motive to harm competition by manipulating Activision’s pricing, degrading Activision’s game quality or player experience on rival consoles and gaming services, changing the terms and timing of access to Activision’s content, or withholding content from competitors entirely, resulting in harm to consumers.
The Commission vote to issue the complaint was 3-1, with Commissioner Christine S. Wilson voting no. A copy of the administrative complaint will be available shortly.
NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The issuance of the administrative complaint marks the beginning of a proceeding in which the allegations will be tried in a formal hearing before an administrative law judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blog.
US Federal Trade Commission "Likely to File Antitrust Lawsuit" to Block Microsoft Acquisition of Activision BlizzardBy Starym
Here's some potentially bad news for the sale of Activision Blizzard to Microsoft, as Politico is reporting that it is likely the US FTC will be filing a lawsuit to stop the acquisition - based on three sources "familiar with the matter". A lawsuit could postpone the deal's timing and even endanger it altogether, regardless of its result.
The acquisition deal has seen a lot of pressure and antitrust probes coming from many sides (including several other countries' regulating bodies and watchdog organizations), as it could constitute an unfair boost for Microsoft's side. The most vocal voice against the sale is Microsoft's chief console competitor, Sony, who argues that the sale would open the door to making many Activision Blizzard games (mostly focusing on Call of Duty) exclusive to Microsoft platforms. This, Sony argues, would significantly disadvantage Sony platforms and leave consumers with less choices for gaming.
A lawsuit challenging the deal is not guaranteed, and the FTC’s four commissioners have yet to vote out a complaint or meet with lawyers for the companies, two of the people said. However, the FTC staff reviewing the deal are skeptical of the companies’ arguments, those people said.
The investigation remains ongoing, but much of the heavy lifting is completed, including depositions of Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella and Activision head Bobby Kotick, the people with knowledge of the investigation said. If the agency does move ahead with a case, it could come as soon as next month, said the people, all of whom were granted anonymity to discuss a confidential matter.
- Politico's Josh Sisco
Well known gaming industry journalist Jason Schreier also weighed in on the story as well:
You can read the full Politico article here, as it goes in to detail about both Microsoft and Sony's arguments so far, as well as Google and Epic's involvement.
A pretty big bombshell was dropped a couple of days ago, as Blizzard announced the end of their partnership with NetEase and a possible end of their games being available in China. We've seen the official posts and responses, but there's a lot of context missing there. Luckily for us, however, well known Chinese WoW community figure NasDa has jumped in to explain things and add some new information and even rumors.
There's actually quite a few new elements presented below, from a rumor of an (unlikely) potential new partner for Blizzard, an explanation on how exactly publishing and certification work in China and how long it takes, the potential Microsoft involvement, the fact that the last time Blizzard did something like this China got WotLK almost a year later, and more.
The below is from a TwitLonger by NasDa:
All the base knowlegde you need to know about this Blizzard-NetEase CATASTROPHE.
- Foreign game companies must work with a domestic game publisher who will operate the game in China. That's why you never see CN region on Blizzard's map when a new patch is about to hit the live servers. CN region is basically in another "parallel universe". It's like peeing in a dark rainy night, you know it's definitely there, but you can't really tell where.
- The publishing partner for Microsoft in China is NetEase, ironically.
- Chinese law requires all digital games to receive a license from the regulator to be published in China.
- In the past getting a game license is not an issue. Since last year it's been extremely difficult for any game, domestic or foreign, to receive a license, even more so for the latter. Last time a foreign title received a lisence was over 500 days ago. Popular ones like PUBG, Fortnite, Apex and Valorant still don't have their Chinese publishing licenses yet. All Tencent games.
- China has resumed issuing new game licenses since April, for dometic games.
- Changing a publishing partnership means re-applying for game licenses even if the games are already approved by the regulator and it could take months or even years.
- This is the second time Blizzard changes their Chinese publishing partner. 14 years ago, Blizzard ended the partnership with their first partner, The 9, and then started worked with NetEase. Combining the process of re-applying for new game license for TBC expansion due to changing the partnership from The 9 to NetEase and the difficulty of getting a game license for WotLK expansion, the original Burning Crusade exapanion in CN region lasted for a total of 1090 days. Chinese players were forced to play LK pre-patch for 19 months. Imaging playing TBC for 3 whole years.
NetEase launched WotLK expansion in CN region on 31/08/2010. Just giving you an idea of how late that was. Paragon killed Arthas on 26th of March 2010. LOL. This is one of the reasons why LK classics is so popular in China.
Now you can see why Blizz and NetEase's "divorce" is widely considered to be a BLOODY CATASTROPHE by the Chinese community.
- Potenital buyer or interesting parties:
miHoYo, the developer of Genshin Impact, has denies the rumors of licensing deal with Blizzard;
Tencent replied that there was no relevant news internally for the time being;
Perfect world is another hot candidate according to rumors;
My source told me(and it's a good source), ByteDance, the parent company of Tiktok will be the successor or at least in the lead.
"Does ByteDance have any experience of operating a game before?" Ye, that was my first question but I guess time will tell.
- NetEase has promised that they will be issuing refund for all the players that still have remaining blizzard bucks and active game time in their accounts.
- After 24th of Jan. all Blizzard services in China will be shutting down. I still don't know what to do after that and where to play wow yet.
Thanks a lot to NasDa for all this information and I really do hope something can be done before January 23rd, as I cannot even imagine simply losing your entire WoW account, not to mention other Blizzard games - even temporarily, and especially with the potential of it being permanently gone. There are so many Chinese players who are part of the WoW community it would truly be a tragedy to see them lose everything they worked, a decade+ of time invested into the game could simply disappear.
Update: there's now also a very interesting comment from the NetEase Global Investment and Partnership President, which you can find at the bottom of the article.
We now also have two NetEase messages to their Blizzard game players, detailing exactly what will happen on January 24th, when their license ends, from the Battle.net client being shut down, to support of new releases before that date, what will happen to character data and more.
Thanks to Neo once again for translating the below statement.
To all of you, dear Blizzard gamers.
Thank you for your continued support and love of Blizzard products. We are honored to have worked with you for 14 years to create and share an unforgettable gaming experience, and once again, we thank you most sincerely!
Due to the expiration of our agreement with Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone Legend, Overwatch Return, Diablo III, StarCraft II, Warcraft III: Remastered, Heroes of the Storm (collectively referred to as "Blizzard products"), which are operated by Shanghai NetEase Network Technology Development Co, will terminate operation at 0:00 on January 24, 2023, and we hereby notify you of the following matters related to the termination of operation in mainland China.
November 23, 2022 onwards, we will close Blizzard game products in Battle.net and the client paid service and user registration portal.
During the period from November 23, 2022 to January 23, 2023, the servers of Blizzard game products will be open normally, and the content update of World of Warcraft "Dragonflight", Hearthstone Legend "The March Of The Lich King" and "Overwatch Return Season 2" will be available as usual, and users can continue to log in and experience the game content. At the same time, users will still be able to spend their Battle.net points and virtual currency on their accounts.
From 0:00 on January 24, 2023, the operation of Blizzard game products will be officially stopped, Battle.net login and all game servers will be closed, as well as the client download.
After the game servers are closed, all account data and character data in each game (including but not limited to character data, remaining game time, each game's items, materials, subscription and paid information, etc.) will be sealed. We will properly handle the game data in accordance with the requirements of laws and regulations to protect the legitimate rights and interests of users. For players who have paid but not used all online game virtual currency and paid game time (if any) that has not yet expired, we will start to arrange refunds after Blizzard game products cease operation.
Dear Blizzard gamers:
Due to the expiration of Activision Blizzard's license agreement with NetEase on January 23, 2023, Blizzard will discontinue most of its game services in mainland China (including World of Warcraft, Hearthstone Legend, Overwatch Returned, Diablo III, StarCraft II, Heroes of the Storm) starting January 24 at 00:00, based on contractual restrictions, while Diablo: Immortal's service will not be affected.
NetEase and Blizzard first partnered in 2008. Over the past 14 years, we have introduced Blizzard's high-quality games to China step by step, starting with World of Warcraft, and even synchronizing global release. With each introduction of a new game, we were excited, because these games also carry our passion and youth.
Within NetEase, there are also several thousand hard-core fans of Blizzard games. Therefore, we are more empathetic to the feelings of players at this moment. Before today, we had been doing our best and negotiating with Blizzard in good faith to seek continued cooperation in mainland China. However, after long negotiations, we were still unable to reach agreement with Activision Blizzard on some key terms of cooperation. Unfortunately, Activision Blizzard has announced earlier today that they are ceasing its cooperation and we will have to accept this decision. After January 23, 2023, NetEase will lose its distributorship and will no longer be able to continue to manage and operate these games that have carried players' memories for 14 years.
Next, NetEase Games will do its best to fulfill its responsibilities and serve players until the last moment. We promise that we will do our best to negotiate with Activision Blizzard to protect the interests of Chinese players to the greatest extent possible for the issues related to refunds, game data, virtual property, game rights, etc. that everyone is concerned about.
At the same time, we will work with Activision Blizzard to achieve "business to business, game to game", pay attention to the voice of players, value all that players who have paid for the game, and properly protect everyone's game assets and memories. We will continue to inform players of the progress of the work through official channels such as the "Blizzard Game Service Center". Once again, we thank all players for their understanding and support. If possible, we hope that Blizzard's departure is only temporary. After the shutdown, we will continue to hold on in our own way and not give up lightly. We believe that those who meet can meet again.
It seems there may have indeed been some behind-the-scenes drama, as NetEase Global Investment and Partnership President Simon Zhu talked about his own characters and a certain "jerk" that caused or affected this outcome, over on his LinkedIn.