The Motley Fool investor’s site has posted a fairly detailed interview with Thomas Tippl, the Chief Operating Officer of Activision/Blizzard. Topics covered include upcoming plans for ATVI, Battle.net changes, what it’s like to work with Bobby Kotick, the Activision/Blizzard merger, WoW:Cataclysm expectations, ATVI’s lagging stock price, and more.
Diablo 3 is mentioned, but only in terms of it being their next big project after Starcraft 2, but if you’re interested in teh business aspect of things, it’s a good read. A couple of quotes:
Gardner: What precipitated the Blizzard thinking? Where did the idea of merging come from?
Tippl: I remember very vividly, because it was in the summer of 2006, when we did a three-year strategic planning exercise. We looked at what are the growth plans for our internal franchises. As part of that strategic planning, we looked at what external growth opportunities that might allow us to achieve our objectives faster or exceed them. As part of that, we looked at all the market segments, such as the MMO segment as one that we weren’t in. As we were analyzing that business we realized [World of Warcraft] had about 5 million subscribers, times $15 per month, times 12 months—wow, that’s a helluva business!
Then we started peeling back the onion and understanding that it was a community that required a lot of back-office infrastructure, and all the complexities around customer service, credit card management, fraud prevention, the fact that no Western company had had any success in Asia. So we looked at this and said, well, it’s probably not a smart idea to do this ourselves. We concluded there would be no financially responsible way to participate in what was / is the most attractive part of the video game industry. That was the origin of starting conversations with Vivendi.
Gardner: I don’t know why the market values things the way it does better than anyone else, but I expect one of the things that might be weighing on the stock is unwinding the World of Warcraft franchise over time. At a certain point, you’ll hit a peak user base, and then, presumably, Diablo III comes on line, and you have other answers for people. The process for unwinding the World of Warcraft franchise, is that something you’ve thought through? Are you still going to be running it 10 years from now, or are you going to have everybody running off on another game in three years? And that’s at a scale that’s massive, so I’m really curious about that.
Tippl: I think we will have World of Warcraft 10 years from now, and it’s going to be a great business. Because it’s not just a game you play once, it’s really, it’s a community, it’s a social network, it’s where you spend time with your friends. It’s not a thing you buy, it’s a place you go. We will continue to bring new content to the game, new services to the game, and that’s how you keep the users engaged. You can’t take it for granted. If you stop innovating, if you stop bringing out compelling content, then you won’t be able to grow. But I don’t see that happening any time soon. We’re very focused on continuing to keep those players happy and I think we have a pipeline that will accomplish that.