Games Industry got 15 minutes with Mike Morhaime at Blizzcon 2011 and peppered him with questions about freeplay MMORPGs, the future of WoW, business in China re: the Panda-xpack, the Starcraft arcade on Battle.net, and more. There were a couple of questions about Diablo III as well, which I thought worth quoting. Check out the whole interview here:
Mike Morhaime: Well of course, I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t. But I think from our perspective, we don’t need people to buy everything. You know, if somebody is subscribing to World of Warcraft, we’re totally happy, and I can sleep very well at night that they’re playing Diablo 3 and World of Warcraft and that was just included as part of their subscription. I think it’s a great deal.
Q: Moving on to Battle.net, you recently announced the real-money auction house for Diablo 3 and you’re talking about the Arcade for StarCraft 2. Do you see features like those as a necessary part of your game designs and your business model from now on?
Mike Morhaime: Yes, I do. We are really trying to integrate… Well, those are very different things, even though there’s some technology we can share between the two. But when you look at Diablo 3, it’s really all about what does this game need to achieve its potential? And a big part of Diablo 3 is item trading, finding valuable items and being able to trade them for items that are valuable to you… We’ll see how it goes, it’s definitely a new thing for us, I think a new thing that nobody’s ever really done in this way before. But we’re very excited about and we’ve received very positive feedback, by and large, from the players.
The Arcade really grew out of the idea that we have this awesome map and mod making community… The same tools that we use to create the campaign in the game, we put in the hands of our community, and they do some amazing stuff with these things. But imagine the kind of work they would do if there was a marketplace where they actually had the opportunity to sell their creation to other players. Imagine how that might incentivise them to do better things with that engine and devote additional resources…
We look at things like the iTunes App Store, and how that has just become so fundamental to changing the way we interact with this device, something that Apple could never have achieved on their own. And, you know, our vision is that we’d like to see that type of effort with StarCraft.
The answer about the “free D3 with 12 months of WoW” is a good one. Obviously it makes financial sense for Blizzard, $180 for a year of WoW is a lot more profit than a canceled WoW sub and a $60 purchase of D3. (Assuming those people weren’t going to buy D3 on top of their WoW subscription.) And they’ll hope to keep people playing WoW longer term than that, and they hope to get WoW players to become D3 fans who will buy the expansions at full price, etc.
It seems a pretty clever plan all around. I wonder who came up with it? And what sort of debates and arguments went on internally before it was agreed upon? Given their reflextive secrecy about all business matters, I doubt we’ll ever hear details on that, but it would be a fascinating tale to tell.