You might think that after creating a title that has over 12 million customers happily paying a monthly subscription fee, Blizzard Entertainment would be immune to some of the fears circling the video game industry.
But Frank Pearce, co-founder of the development giant, says he’s just as worried about the impact of Facebook and iPhone games as everyone else.
“It’s really tough to compete against free,” he says. “No matter what level of quality you hit, there are a lot of people who are willing to sacrifice that for a cheaper version...The industry is changing in terms of the business model.”
That’s a thought that has been on a lot of people’s minds at this week’s Game Developers Conference, but it’s still jarring to hear from Blizzard. The company is virtually video game royalty, with a passionately devoted fan base and a string of tremendously successful titles that is unmatched.
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary in the business, the company (a division of Activision-Blizzard) is preparing for its next big push. Up first is “Diablo 3,” which investors hope to see this year – though the developer isn’t willing to commit to that yet. Another installment in the “StarCraft” series is underway as well. And lurking in the background is a new franchise, another massively multiplayer online game.
The company’s not saying much about that game at present, though Pearce does note that some development teams are already playing a build internally, adding refinements. The company generally exposes new games to concentric circles of team members to gather feedback before it hits a beta phase. He won’t say, however, how many of those internal circles have seen the game yet.