In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Mike Morhaime talked about the WoW Panda Pack launch, and reflected on Diablo III’s opening days as well.
Mike Morhaime: Oh, there are definitely things we would do differently. It would be so helpful in advance to know how many people are going to want to play a game. Because we could plan things out a lot better: we can make sure we have enough capacity, we can buy the hardware that we need. The Diablo III launch exceeded out forecasts by an order of magnitude; we were very far off. We outsold our full-year forecast in the matter of a week.
I have to give our team some credit because they scrambled really quickly and they were able to increase capacity everywhere within a couple of weeks. But the first couple of weeks were a little bit painful and so I would love to do that over again.
Q: The interesting thing about Diablo III was you had announced a specific ship date very far in advance, which is completely unlike any other launch you’ve done. And earlier in the year you tore the guts out of the stats system. As an RPG designer I realise how difficult that is. Did that all make it harder to get the Diablo III launch out?
Mike Morhaime: I felt like we gave ourselves enough time in terms of the things we could test and the things that were feasible to test. We can’t know how many people are going to come out and want to play. We ran an open beta where we let anyone in the world in who wanted to play the game for free for a weekend. But a lot of people were waiting for the release of the game so we really didn’t have the indication that our forecasts would be off by so much.
Pity Morhaime wasn’t willing to answer those questions; two good ones about game content and development issues, and Morhaime’s reply to both questions was basically a humble brag. Not that you’d expect much public introspection from Blizzard’s CEO, I guess.
An interesting follow up that he might have entertained… why were their pre-game sales estimates so inadequate? And why didn’t they decide to err on the side of caution with extra capacity just in case? It’s not as if Diablo 2 and WoW didn’t have the exact same “too much demand” problem upon launch, and it’s something that’s hammered countless other MMORPG type games over the years.