Blizzard's Mike Ryder
As StarCraft II launches globally, the VP of International talks social gaming, Activision, audience expectancies and digital vs retail
Blizzard Entertainment is one of the core pillars of the Activision Blizzard machine, but one that remains largely untouched by the console arm of the business. On the eve of strategy sequel StarCraft II's launch, GamesIndustry.biz talked to the developer's VP of international Mike Ryder, with occasional contribution from the game's software engineer Carl Chimes.
Economical with his words and difficult to steer away from practiced comments, Ryder is perhaps emblematic of how Blizzard works. Here, he responds to queries about social networking, StarCraft II's status within Activision Blizzard as a whole, downloads versus retail and the developer's prestigious place within the industry.
Well, Activision Blizzard is the corporate entity, so for Activision Blizzard it's important. Certainly it's important to Blizzard. Activision is a separate division, so I'm sure that they'll be glad to see us be successful. It's a separate division so the numbers don't go up for them specifically.
In his position he's speaking for Activision Blizzard.
I'm not familiar with that quote, I don't recall hearing it, sorry.
I would characterise it this way. We focus on our players globally, and one of our goals is to make the game accessible to as many players in different regions as we can. So we actually put a tremendous amount of effort into trying to tailor our business model into different regions, to meet the global economics, the global purchasing patterns, the global culture and as a part of that, whereas in Europe a boxed model in the US a boxed model is appropriate, in certain regions offering a client with a subscription model is a better way to go to make it accessible to those players.
I'm not familiar with how they came up with their numbers, but I can tell you that for us, again going back to the idea that we really want to do the best thing that we can for our players, we want to offer them as many alternatives as possible. So certain players in certain regions may want to get content or buy the game digitally. In other places retail is really prevalent. We feel that retail is a really vital part of our business. We built the World of WarCraft business pretty much around the retail channel, so we feel that retail is really important for us, but we also integrate it with the ability to provide digital sales for certain regions as well.
Yeah. I'm just not familiar with how they derived those numbers so I can't really comment on it.
Well, the way Blizzard works is we make the games that our development team wants to make, so I guess there's a way to look at it from a more analytic perspective, where's the market going and all that sort of thing, but we really feel like we have a great real-time strategy game franchise in StarCraft, and our development team was passionate about making the next StarCraft game. So for us there's nothing unusual about it at all, it just seems to be a very natural thing to bring the market the successor to one of the most successful games that we've ever made.
The culture at Blizzard is really important. If someone asks me what is the key to success at Blizzard, I think that it's because we've got a well-defined culture that has some very well-defined values. Those values are about making great games all the time; we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make a great game. But that's not unique to this situation, it's the way it's always been for us. So we don't ship the game until it's ready, we make sure it's a great game or we just don't put it out. That type of mentality is just the way we are, we don't see it as unusual or anything like that.
I've worked in other places in the industry and had great experiences, but I can tell you, it's wonderful to work at Blizzard because I'm really proud of the culture we have at Blizzard.
I think we behave in the way the Blizzard behaves. I'm not sure I understand your question.
I think we feel privileged that there are lots of people who like to play the games that we've made. So we feel a close connection with the players and we want to continue to make them happy.