World of Warcraft Era

Day9: And I mean I know that there was so much early success with the Warcrafts, the Diablos, the StarCrafts, but I know that the release of World of Warcraft was a completely different beast for you guys. Frank, talk a bit about leading into that launch.

Frank: So I mean we back in day when we sold a lot more of our products through brick and mortar retailers, we used to host midnight launches and midnight signing events down the road in the Fry’s Electronics in Fountain Valley; and so we had hosted a midnight signing for Warcraft III and the Warcraft III expansion, and it was fun. It was great to have that opportunity to interact with our community, which I don’t think we necessarily realized that the time was as large as it really was, because we just sort of saw this microcosm of it.

We might have had five hundred people that came out for the midnight signing for the Warcraft III releases, and so we hosted the same midnight signing event for World of Warcraft, and we literally created traffic on the freeway with the event.

So we are trying to get to the event so that we can participate in the signing. There is… you are sitting in traffic to get there, you get off the freeway, there is surface street traffic everywhere, the parking lot is full, and we parked down the block three blocks down, had to walk in, and you are walking in, and there is this line that is going down the street and down the block.

We are like: What is going on here? Why is the line up off the property?

Mike: I thought maybe they were holding another event that–

Frank: Yeah, like What? Is there a concert? What’s going on? and we got on to the site and there was… there must have been 2000 people or more that showed up for the midnight signing for World of Warcraft. Went around the building at least, once around the parking lot down the street, down the block and that sort of (for me anyway) was the moment when (A) I realized that we had a very-very passionate community that was much larger than we could have imagined, and (B) the night that our business changed overnight.

Like that night midnight we launched it, and our business is different, right? We are not just putting product in a box delivering it, and because we love the product making patches. All of a sudden, we felt tremendous sense of obligation to all these people that love what we do, what we have done, and are living in this virtual space that we have created, and we need to continue to maintain it.

Day9: I remember you guys sold out immediately, and then like reprints, and sold out again. Wasn’t it? Just like way more massive than any of your projections?

Mike: It was. We had a lot of trouble keeping inventory at retail. But then we had a bigger problem, which was that we didn’t have enough capacity on our server infrastructure to support printing more boxes. So we actually had to stop. We had to just stop replenishing the inventory several times during that first year as we added more hardware.

Day9: How long did it take for World of Warcraft to be like stable?

Mike: Is it stable now? Now it really took a year for us to– we had to actually redo the entire infrastructure until we sort of finally were able to get our heads in a good space, but it was as you know after a year we still had some issues and it took a long time to get to where we are now.

Day9: I can only imagine that that is kind of like: yay, it is really successful! Oh God, it is really successful! Allen, from a business side in terms of projections EverQuest was the big MMO at that point in time, were you like hoping to get a fraction of that, hoping to exceed it, how were you thinking of the product before you hit this incredible launch?

Allen: So one of our strengths at Blizzard in the early days, and it is ironic actually because we were so idealistic about making games, and really still are, that we didn’t really ever think much about the business side of things.

We just wanted to make the World the Warcraft because we love that genre of game, and really had no idea how successful it would eventually become. I remember Mike and I were up in Marina Del Rey at a meeting with some executives from Electronic Arts, and we had mentioned to them in this meeting that we thought maybe we would get to a million users. That was our optimistic scenario. Even for us that was a ridiculously optimistic scenario, and I remember them laugh… literally laughing at us, and saying: where in the world are you getting those numbers from?

And we didn’t have a great answer. We really had no idea. And so to imagine that World of Warcraft would go on to become what it did, it is pretty neat; but sometimes once a decade or so, these new genres of games open up, and its technology enable something that didn’t exist before and there is really just no way to know; and it is at times like that games like World of Warcraft, a company made up of gamers that love games, a company that’s willing to take a risk like that is able to do something different, do something new, something really huge without really understanding or knowing what its potential is, there are some opportunities like that today which we are looking at.

Samwise: Did World of Warcraft have a notepad in it? You guys remember the Blizzard notepad in the old games? Remember the games back in the day would come in a giant box and it had like one disk, we put that notepad in there, and it came with free drawing paper, I have seen so many people have cool doodles or notes on it, but yeah we used to have the notepad in our boxes. We haven’t done that. Was it Warcraft III maybe the last one?

Allen: On StarCraft we joked about filling the box with sand and calling it dilithium crystals, or something like that. It was so heavy you’d think it’d be worth a hundred dollars. It was so heavy. A box full of sand.

Bob: It’d be the crystals for the pylons.

Samwise: Crystal dust.

Day9: During this period where there is this massive growth of the company, Bob, from your point of view, how did things shift and change during those years after the release of World of Warcraft?

Bob: It is really for me it was this surreal thing going from the I love toxic waste T-shirt in a tiny place, moving through five different buildings, I think there is been six, but I have been in five different buildings; and watching each one of them grow and grow, and get more and more people, and now at the very beginning the company was practically this big, and now the company is that big.

I had a sword rule (I called it) where I knew everybody, but then we exploded. People were coming in, there were so many people, and I couldn’t keep up with how many there were, and we give away these things: at two years you get a stein, at five years you get a sword, at ten you get a shield. I made the sword rule that was: if anybody is getting your sword, by then I know who you are; but there is so many people now it is just exploded. It is crazy how big it is gotten. Just surreal.

Next: The 2010s Era: New IPs

The 90s EraThe 2000s era: World of WarcraftThe 2010s Era: New IPsPanel Q&A

Hope you enjoyed this article. Please, support Blizzplanet via PayPal or Patreon, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch for daily Blizzard games news updates.

BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts