After reports of Activision Blizzard being sued by the State of California over discrimination against female employees, Schreier’s exposé follows up on a week of bad publicity for developer Blizzard Entertainment and its publishing owner Activision.
Schreier’s report covers “interviews with 11 people who worked on or close to the game” and an internal post mortem conducted by Blizzard following the launch of Warcraft III: Reforged. His investigation indicates that the project may have been doomed from the start, with employees claiming that the project was too small to warrant the ambitious budget required to deliver on all its promises.
But the project was never a priority for the company, in part because a remaster of an old strategy game had little chance of becoming the type of billion-dollar product that Activision wanted, according to the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak on company matters. With Blizzard pressured to focus on its biggest franchises, Warcraft III: Reforged couldn’t get the ambitious budget that its leaders wanted.
And the lack of resources wasn’t the only issue during development. From the very start, Blizzard seemed to be unsure about the approach of the revival of its iconic real-time strategy game. As a result, Warcraft III: Reforged looked to be dead on arrival internally. A spokesman interviewed by Schreier summarizes what exactly went wrong from an inside point of view:
“The central issue with Warcraft III: Reforged was an early, unclear vision and misalignment about whether the game was a remaster or a remake. This led to other challenges with the scope and features of the game, and communication on the team, with leadership and beyond, which all snowballed closer to launch. Developers across Blizzard pitched in to help, but ultimately bug fixing and other tasks related to the end of development couldn’t correct the more fundamental issues.”
However, it looks like the key issue still revolved about chasing profits first and foremost. As Schreier notes, Activision Blizzard’s pre-order policy forced them to release the game before it was finished:
Blizzard chose to plow ahead with a premature release of Warcraft III: Reforged largely because it had already taken pre-orders from players, according to people familiar with the decision. The company couldn’t bump the game too much more without potentially being forced to send out refunds and risking that fans wouldn’t buy the game again.
Higher-ups even went so far as to remove re-recorded voice acting and revised scripts that intended to put Warcraft III’s characters in line with the current lore of World of Warcraft. Original Warcraft III developer David Fried, who had been brought back on the team to help with the development of Resurrected, clearly sees Activision as the driving force of failure:
“I am deeply disappointed that Activision would actively work against the interests of all players in the manner that they did,” he said.
The internal team post-mortem sourced by Schreier goes on to blame Blizzard’s leadership for the project’s failure, not allocating the resources required to deliver on initial promises, and rushing to release well before completion.:
“We took pre-orders when we knew the game wasn’t ready yet,” they said, adding later that the company needed to “resist the urge to ship an unfinished product because of financial pressure.”
What followed after the release of Blizzard’s remake were crushing reviews, waves of pre-order cancellations, and a publicity disaster.
Blizzard vowed to update their game with regular patches and content that had been promised with the launch of the game, but almost one and a half years later, Reforged is still missing key features – most likely because Blizzard’s “Classic Games” team, which had been in charge of developing Warcraft III: Reforged, has been dismantled in 2020.
In the end, the botched development and release of Warcraft III: Reforged still at least brought something about for Blizzard fans around the world: a clear vision regarding Diablo II: Resurrected:
The spokesman added that as a result of the negative reactions to Warcraft III: Reforged, the upcoming Diablo II remake, planned for release in September, will be “a pure remaster, faithful to the art, gameplay, and cinematics of the original game.”