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Blizzard's Rob Pardo

On DotA, the challenges of Battle.net, day-and-date digital releases and working with Bungie

Blizzard held its annual BlizzCon event last weekend in the US, giving fans a closer look at the forthcoming Diablo III game, StarCraft II expansion Heart of the Storm and spin-off Defence of the Ancients, as well as more info on World of WarCraft and hints at new projects.

Here, in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, executive vice president Rob Pardo discusses the current state of play at Blizzard, its confusion over Valve’s attempts to trademark ‘DotA’, releasing digital games simultaneously with boxed product, and how it could never dedicate resources to the projects by parent company Activision.

GamesIndustry.biz Defence of the Ancients isn't a Blizzard property, it has been born out of Blizzard games and the Blizzard modding community. Now you're in a situation where some of those people are at Valve and they're making what Valve wants to be seen as the official DotA game. I think they're even making a move to trademark the name - what's your response to that?
Rob Pardo

A little bit of confusion to be honest. Certainly, DotA came out of the Blizzard community. It was something that started - I believe the first map I know of was Aeon of Strife, and then there was a Defence of the Ancients map that was made that became the terminology for that style of game, like Tower Defence or Hero Arenas, there were DotA games. The actual Defence of the Ancients map has actually gone through many hands over the years, we've made maps for it, and it's just a really strange move to us that Valve would go off and try to exclusively trademark the term considering it's something that's been freely available to us and everyone in the Warcraft III community up to this point. Valve is usually such a pro-mod community company that it seems like a really strange move to us.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you have any idea why they're doing it?
Rob Pardo

I really don't understand, to be honest. I've talked to some of those guys and obviously they do have Abdul Ismail, who most recent was working on the DotA All-Stars map. So I'm assuming since he wants to continue making that map they felt like they should be able to trademark it. To us, that means that you're really taking it away from the Blizzard and WarCraft III community and that doesn't seem the right thing to do.

GamesIndustry.biz Unlike others such as League of Legends, you're choosing to use DotA in the title of your mod. If Valve comes to you and says, "we don't want you to use that title" what would your response be?
Rob Pardo

Our response is that they don't own the term 'DotA' at this point. It's something they're obviously filing for but our contention is its something that should continue to be available to Blizzard and to our community.

GamesIndustry.biz You've announced that Cataclysm will be available as a download sale immediately at launch. You've been selling via download recently but after a day or two to give the retail shops a chance to sell a few boxes. Why the change for Cataclysm?
Rob Pardo

We've just been slowly changing it over time. Each time we've had a narrower window and I think it's just borne out of the industry changing and digital distribution becoming more and more popular. We're now at the point where it's time, especially for the World of Warcraft community because they're online by definition. They are already able to handle very large pieces of data so we felt that this is the best thing for the community, the opportunity to download and pre-order the game before we launch.

GamesIndustry.biz Is it something you only want to do for expansion packs at the moment, or would you consider selling a full game - Diablo III for example - from day one, online?
Rob Pardo

We haven't discussed what we're going to do but I'm sure we'll discuss it. I can't say for sure that this is the way for sure that we'll deliver now all future games, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was, either. Once we get a little closer to Diablo III we'll make a determination. But the day's coming. You can definitely see digital distribution all around the industry, it's becoming a bigger and bigger per cent of the market.