As we approach the 10 year anniversary of World of Warcraft, I feel its only fitting to look back, not just at one game, but at a dynasty. There are few entertainment companies out there that can boast a 1994 start and still at the top of their industry, but with this its important to realize exactly where the start came from, and how it developed.
In the first part of this three part series of articles, we will take a walk down memory lane and look back at how this prolific company got its head out of the sand and onto the minds of millions. Along the way, you’ll hear Metro’s opinions on things from his viewpoint.
It all started back in 1994. The three founders Mike Morhaime, Allen Adham, and Frank Pearce had already been working under other names, but the true history of this success story starts in this year, with the release of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. With this single release, the Real Time Strategy genre was officially born, and think about what it would blossom to be. Considering it all starts here, imagine the evolutions we see all the way to games like League of Legends and DOTA. It is by no means a stretch to assume these games owe their expanse to Blizzard’s flagship release, but the story goes soooo much deeper.
Frankly speaking, the original Warcraft was nothing to write home about, even back then. However, what it did do was put them on the map. Warcraft 2‘s release was where things started to pick up. On top of the far-reaching genre implications, you should also realize that the storyline itself all started here.
Even the most senior of members of the company reminded us that the Orc v Human storyline was birthed out of spontaneity, and much has been retrofitted, but even to this day to go back and look at Grom Hellscream and Gul’dan in their origins makes you realize just how prolific this company has been and can be.
Not to be forgotten are the other IPs in Starcraft and Diablo though! The original Diablo came out in 1996, 1 year after Warcraft 2, and Starcraft came out in 1998. Both surely have wonderful tales, but more importantly mark the launch of Blizzard’s next big break through: Battle.net.
I’m sure its hard to remember a time before everything was digital and connected through the internet, but as far back as I remember, Blizzard was one of the firsts to do it. Even prior to the turn of the century, they already had a vision for this company, and it would be culminated through one connective means to unite all their titles. You see, the direct result of a desire to be labeled as a group and not an individual was Battle.net’s creation. Only years later would it transform into what it is today, but all stories have a beginning, even those exceedingly humble.
Diablo 2 launched with the new century, and to this day is considered one of the best ARPGs ever made, likely the founder of that genre as well. What came next, however, is where we see the pinnacle of success for this rising company.
In 2002, Warcraft III was released, and this budding companies’ legacy would be fully cemented.
Here we see their first true success at game creation AND launch as well. With Diablo and Starcraft stock on the rise, it felt as if Warcraft 2 was actually getting more popular by the day. The story was a true fantasy experience akin to Tolkien and the like, and with the many imitators cropping up, it was time for Blizzard to respond.
With the announcement we saw an absolute fervor and so the great marketing company we would come to know took its first step from being just a quality producer to a quality salesman as well.
It would still be some years until the first Blizzcon, but its important to realize the foundation was all formed here.
Warcraft III was a success before it even launched thanks to the clever marketing and hype-wall built up by previous titles. It dominated the market and did something even more important…
With the advent of Battle.net, we see Warcraft III not only create compelling gameplay and story, but launch the first successful “esport” of Blizzard’s legacy. Of course, this was not a term used at the time, and even among mild fans the game didn’t have the feverish popularity that some do now, but the point is ALL their work prior led to this one moment.
That can not be stressed enough, you see. Warcraft 1 and 2 laid the foundation, Diablo 2 and Starcraft added depth to the company and successfully launched Battle.net. Then Warcraft III took all those puzzle pieces and framed the image beautifully. A masterful display of marketing, a major improvement in Graphics and storyline, and an intriguing game for those with a competitive nature.
For this moment, Blizzard entertainment was on top of the world.
But it doesn’t end there.
Once the foundation is laid, ambition propels one’s soul too heavily. Even before the massive success of Warcraft 3 was realized, the Goliath that would be World of Warcraft was in development, announced in 2001, one year prior to WCIII‘s launch.
Here ends the days of the past for Blizzard and begins its propulsion into the future. The line is blurred, as still well into WoW‘s success Warcraft III thrived, but what is important to take away here is that a simple franchise transformed into the highest grossing game of all time, all because of ambition and innovation. All because of Blizzard.