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Frank Pearce: WoW's success has been "exhausting"

Tue 02 Sep 2008 7:00am GMT / 3:00am EDT / 12:00am PDT
Publishing

Blizzard co-founder on the company's growth as "a great problem to have"

Frank Pearce, senior VP and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment, has told GamesIndustry.biz that the process of developing the company's stunningly successful MMO World of Warcraft has been an "exhausting" one - but that its legacy of company growth is "a great problem to have".

In an interview at Games Convention in Leipzig he queried a question as to whether the title's performance - beyond all expectations since launch - had been interesting to watch.

"I don't know if I'd describe it as 'interesting' as much as exhausting," he said. "We've got almost 3000 employees worldwide now, and the majority of that growth is due to the success of World of Warcraft.

"As a company we've found ourselves spread very, very thin - because the World of Warcraft community has a voracious appetite for content. That development team is 130 people, they're working on content patches, they're working on an expansion set, they've got their hands full - and then we've got the other development teams that we need to continue to support as well.

"So it's great, it's a great problem to have, but it is a lot of work. We've learned a lot, made a lot of mistakes along the way. It's been good experience for us, I wouldn't say that we've regretted it... but 'interesting' isn't how we'd describe it necessarily."

Pearce went on to explain that one of the benefits of the company's resultant growth has been the ability to run development teams in parallel across its three franchises - Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo.

"I would say that's been part of our growth over the last several years - getting to a point where each of the development teams can operate more independently and autonomously than they have historically," he explained. "We were always in a situation where in order to achieve the standards of quality that we wanted, it required the focus of the large majority of the company to get a game out the door.

"So it's pretty cool, the guys at the office are all really passionate about the different franchises we've got, the communities are all really passionate about the franchises too. It's been almost ten years since we launched the original StarCraft and almost ten years since we launched the expansion - so it'll be nice to be able to service the franchises more regularly than we have."

He also revealed one of the reasons that Blizzard is able to put together its Apple-esque 'big reveals' at its conventions without suffering constantly from company leaks - that keeping those secrets is helped by the employees believing in the products.

"Part of it's because the employees and developers take an immense amount of pride in the work that they're doing, and have a really good understanding of the industry," he said. "They recognise the value we get from controlling the flow of information out of the company. They value the unveilings that we're able to do, because we're able to keep secrets.

"The experience at the Worldwide Invitational in Paris wouldn't have been nearly the same if we couldn't keep a secret, and the same with the Worldwide Invitational the prior year when we announced Starcraft II."

And while it's known that work is underway on a new top secret MMO at Blizzard, Pearce wouldn't confirm whether or not it was a new intellectual property, merely acknowledging that the company's success has set tough benchmarks to beat.

"Yeah, [developing a new IP] would definitely be a lot of work," he said. "You know a big factor is the development teams, and what they want to work on. One of the ways we achieve our high levels of quality is by making sure the development teams are really passionate about the games they're working on.

"So if there was a development team that was really passionate about a new intellectual property idea, then we'd give that strong consideration."

The full GamesIndustry.bizinterview with Frank Pearce is available now.

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