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The Path of the Blizzard

Paul Sams and Rob Pardo look back on the rise of one of the most loved games companies in the world

The games which Blizzard Entertainment has made have, almost without exception, been popular with fans to such an extent that the company can almost guarantee a significant dedicated base for any product they'd care to work on - probably regardless of genre.

Even before the mighty MMO project that these days nobody needs to name, the Diablo, StarCraft and Warcraft games were big-sellers for their time, particularly in the US - but it was World of Warcraft that's effectively transformed their position in the industry and essentially fuelled the deal that saw Vivendi Games combine with Activision last year.

The end of 2009 heralded the fifth anniversary of World of Warcraft (WoW), and the fifteenth birthday for the Warcraft franchise as a whole, so it seemed a fitting time to sit down with two of the company's executive management team - COO Paul Sams and executive VP of game design Rob Pardo - to look back on the journey as the rest of the industry ponders what lies ahead. Part two of this feature will follow next week.

Changing the Times

Go back to the beginning of the Warcraft days in the mid nineties and there's no doubt the industry's changed hugely. Companies have grown up or disappeared - or both - while the social view of what it means to play games has altered far beyond the pale stereotype that seemed to exist for so long.

Along the way there are certain companies that have become leading lights, not just for those that work there, but for the people that play their games, and certainly Blizzard numbers among them.

But there are a handful of companies that have succeeded in changing the industry itself - and you'd certainly argue that Blizzard's success has put it in that group too. Paul Sams sees a bit of both along the way.

"Well I would say that it's probably a combination," he explains. "In some respects I think we've changed with the industry. There have been other companies that have certainly done great things, which we've observed - we've looked at the things they were doing well and the things they could have done slightly better, and try to iterate on the things we think are cool ideas, approaches or concepts.

"Certainly I think we've evolved and grown with the industry, because great ideas don't only come from Blizzard. But I also think that Blizzard is a company that's done a lot of great things in the gaming industry, and has really operated in a transformative way in the genres we're in.

"I think World of Warcraft is just the most recent example of that, because I think that's been something you've seen from us not only in the real-time strategy genre and action-RPG genre, but also ultimately the MMO space.

"So I think it's a combination - we've done our fair share to evolve and grow the industry."

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Phil Elliott

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