Blizzard Entertainment

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Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.
Type Subsidiary of Activision Blizzard
Industry Video games
Predecessors Silicon & Synapse
(1991–1994)
Chaos Studios
(1994)
Founded 1991 as Silicon & Synapse
1994 as Chaos Studios
1994 as Blizzard Entertainment
Headquarters Irvine, California, United States[1]
Key people Michael Morhaime (president and co-founder)
Frank Pearce (vice president and co-founder)
Chris Metzen (senior vice president of Story and Franchise Development)
Allen Adham (former president and co-founder)
Samwise Didier (Art Director)
Products Warcraft series
Diablo series
StarCraft series
Employees 4,700 (As of 2012)[2]
Parent Independent Company (1991–1994)
Davidson & Associates (1994–1996)
CUC International (1996–1997)
Cendant Corporation (1997–1998)
Havas S.A. (1998)
Vivendi Universal Games (1998–2006)
Vivendi Games (2006–2008)
Activision Blizzard (2008–present)
Website blizzard.com

Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. is an American video game developer and publisher founded on February 8, 1991, under the name Silicon & Synapse by three graduates of UCLA,[3] Michael Morhaime, Allen Adham and Frank Pearce, and is currently a subsidiary of American company Activision Blizzard. Based in Irvine, California, the company originally concentrated primarily on the creation of game ports for other studios before beginning development of their own software in 1993 with the development of games like Rock n' Roll Racing and The Lost Vikings. In 1994 the company became Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. before being acquired by distributor Davidson & Associates and later by Vivendi. Shortly thereafter, Blizzard shipped their breakthrough hit Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. Blizzard went on to create several successful video games, including the Warcraft sequels, StarCraft, and Diablo series, and the MMORPG World of Warcraft. Their most recent projects include Diablo III, World of Warcraft's fifth expansion, Warlords of Draenor, and the first expansion of StarCraft II, Heart of the Swarm.

On July 9, 2008, Activision officially merged with Vivendi Games, culminating in the inclusion of the Blizzard brand name in the title of the resulting holding company.[4] On July 25, 2013, Activision Blizzard announced the purchase of 429 million shares from owner Vivendi. As a result, Activision Blizzard became an independent company.[5] Blizzard Entertainment offers events to meet players and to announce games: the BlizzCon in California, United States, and the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in other countries, such as Paris, France and Seoul, South Korea.

History[edit]

Blizzard Entertainment was founded by Michael Morhaime, Allen Adham, and Frank Pearce as Silicon & Synapse on February 8th 1991, a year after[3] all three had received their bachelor's degrees from UCLA.[3][6] In the early days the company focused on creating game ports for other studios. Ports include titles such as J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I and Battle Chess II: Chinese Chess.[7][8] In 1993, the company developed games such as Rock n' Roll Racing and The Lost Vikings (published by Interplay Productions).

In early 1994 they were acquired by distributor Davidson & Associates for $6.75 million.[9] The same year the company briefly changed its name to Chaos Studios, before finally settling on Blizzard Entertainment after it was discovered that another company with the Chaos name already existed.[10] Shortly thereafter, Blizzard shipped their breakthrough hit Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.

Blizzard has changed hands several times since then: Davidson was acquired along with Sierra On-Line by a company called CUC International in 1996; CUC then merged with a hotel, real-estate, and car-rental franchiser called HFS Corporation to form Cendant in 1997. In 1998 it became apparent that CUC had engaged in accounting fraud for years before the merger; Cendant's stock lost 80% of its value over the next six months in the ensuing widely discussed accounting scandal. The company sold its consumer software operations, Sierra On-line which included Blizzard, to French publisher Havas in 1998, the same year Havas was purchased by Vivendi. Blizzard was part of the Vivendi Games group of Vivendi. In July 2008 Vivendi Games merged with Activision, using Blizzard's name in the resulting company, Activision Blizzard.

In 1996, Blizzard acquired Condor Games, which had been working on the game Diablo for Blizzard at the time. Condor was renamed Blizzard North, and has since developed hit games Diablo, Diablo II, and its expansion pack Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. Blizzard North was located in San Mateo, California; the company originated in Redwood City, California.

Blizzard launched their online gaming service Battle.net in January 1997 with the release of their action-RPG Diablo. In 2002, Blizzard was able to reacquire rights for three of its earlier Silicon & Synapse titles from Interplay Entertainment and re-release them under Game Boy Advance.[11] In 2004, Blizzard opened European offices in the Paris suburb of Vélizy, Yvelines, France, responsible for the European in-game support of World of Warcraft. On November 23, 2004, Blizzard released World of Warcraft, its MMORPG offering. On May 16, 2005, Blizzard announced the acquisition of Swingin' Ape Studios, a video game developer which had been developing StarCraft: Ghost. The company was then merged into Blizzard's other teams after StarCraft: Ghost was "postponed indefinitely". On August 1, 2005, Blizzard announced the consolidation of Blizzard North into the headquarters at 131 Theory in UC Irvine's University Research Park in Irvine, California. In 2007, Blizzard moved their headquarters to 16215 Alton Parkway in Irvine, California.

World of Warcraft was the fourth released game set in the fantasy Warcraft universe, which was first introduced by Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in 1994.[12] Blizzard announced World of Warcraft on September 2, 2001.[13] The game was released on November 23, 2004, on the 10th anniversary of the Warcraft franchise.

The first expansion set of the game, The Burning Crusade, was released on January 16, 2007.[14] The second expansion set, Wrath of the Lich King, was released on November 13, 2008.[15] The third expansion set, Cataclysm[16][17] entered into closed beta testing in late June 2010 and was released to the public on December 7, 2010.[18]

Having peaked at 12 million monthly subscriptions in 2010, World of Warcraft subscriptions sunk to 6.8 million in 2014, the lowest number since the end of 2006, prior to The Burning Crusade expansion. [19][20][21] However, World of Warcraft is still the world's most-subscribed MMORPG,[15][22][23] and holds the Guinness World Record for the most popular MMORPG by subscribers.[24][25][26][27] In April 2008, World of Warcraft was estimated to hold 62 percent of the MMORPG subscription market.[28] In 2008, Blizzard was honored at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for the creation of World of Warcraft. Mike Morhaime accepted the award.

As the website Gamasutra in February 2012 writes, Blizzard Entertainment will lay off around 600 employees "in order to address the changing needs of our company", as the Blizzard CEO and co-founder Mike Morhaime in a statement said.[29] Blizzard has an office in Austin, Texas as well as in numerous countries around the globe. As of 2012 Blizzard has 4,700 employees across 11 cities,[2] including nearly 1,700 located at their headquarters in Irvine, California.[30]

Games[edit]

Games Developed[edit]

Title Year Platform(s) Genre
as Silicon & Synapse
RPM Racing[7] 1991 SNES Racing video game
The Lost Vikings[31] 1992 Amiga, Amiga CD32, GBA, MS-DOS, Genesis, SNES Side-scrolling video game
Rock n' Roll Racing[31] 1993 SNES, Genesis, GBA Racing video game
as Blizzard Entertainment
Blackthorne[31] 1994 SNES, Sega 32X, MS-DOS, GBA, Mac OS Platform game
The Death and Return of Superman[31] 1994 SNES, Genesis Side-scrolling video game
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 1994 MS-DOS, Mac OS Real-time strategy game
Justice League Task Force[32] 1995 Genesis, SNES Versus fighting game
Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness 1995 MS-DOS, Linux, AmigaOS 4, Mac OS, Saturn, PlayStation, Windows Real-time strategy game
Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal 1996 Mac OS, MS-DOS, PlayStation, Saturn, Windows Expansion pack
Diablo 1996 Windows, Mac OS, PlayStation Action role-playing game
The Lost Vikings 2 1997 SNES, Saturn, PlayStation, Windows Side-scrolling video game
StarCraft 1998 Windows, Mac OS, Nintendo 64 Real-time strategy game
StarCraft: Brood War 1998 Windows, Mac OS Expansion pack
Warcraft II: Battle.net Edition 1999 Windows, Mac OS Real-time strategy game
Diablo II 2000 Windows, Mac OS, OS X Action role-playing game
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction 2001 Windows, Mac OS, OS X Expansion pack
Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos 2002 Windows, Mac OS, OS X Real-time strategy game
Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne 2003 Windows, Mac OS, OS X Expansion pack
World of Warcraft 2004 Windows, OS X MMORPG
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade 2007 Windows, OS X Expansion pack
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 2008 Windows, OS X Expansion pack
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty 2010 Windows, OS X Real-time strategy game
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm 2010 Windows, OS X Expansion pack
Diablo III 2012 Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Action role-playing game
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria 2012 Windows, OS X Expansion pack
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm 2013 Windows, OS X Expansion pack
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft 2014 Windows, OS X, iOS, Android Digital CCG
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls 2014 Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One Expansion pack
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor 2014 Windows, OS X Expansion pack
Overwatch In development Windows, OS X First person shooter
Heroes of the Storm In development Windows, OS X Multiplayer online battle arena
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void In development Windows, OS X Expansion pack

Ports[edit]

Title Year Platform(s) Genre
as Silicon & Synapse
Battle Chess 1992 Windows 3.x and Commodore 64 ports[33] Chess
Battle Chess II: Chinese Chess 1992 Amiga port[33] Chess
J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I 1992 Amiga port[33] Role-playing video game
Castles 1992 Amiga port[7] Strategy video game
MicroLeague Baseball 1992 Amiga port[7] Sports video game
Lexi-Cross 1992 Macintosh port[7] Puzzle video game
Dvorak on Typing 1992 Macintosh port[7] Educational game
Shanghai II: Dragon's Eye[33] 1994 Windows 3.x port Mahjong Solitaire

Main franchises[edit]

Currently, Blizzard has three main franchises in the gaming industry: Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft. Multiple games have been released for each of these game series, and other media based around the intellectual property for each franchise. Numerous books have been written to expand the story for each series, along with media such as comics and collectible card games. Blizzard Entertainment announced in 2006 that they will be producing a Warcraft live-action movie. The movie is currently in development, financed and produced by Legendary Pictures, Atlas Entertainment and Film4, and will be distributed by Universal Pictures.[34]

Unreleased games[edit]

Notable unreleased titles include Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans, which was cancelled on May 22, 1998, Shattered Nations, and StarCraft: Ghost, which was "Postponed indefinitely" on March 24, 2006 after being in development hell for much of its lifespan. After seven years of development, Blizzard revealed the cancellation of an unannounced MMO codenamed "Titan" on September 23, 2014.[35] The company also has a history of declining to set release dates, choosing to instead take as much time as needed, generally saying a given product is "done when it's done."[36]

Pax Imperia II was originally announced as a title to be published by Blizzard. Blizzard eventually dropped Pax Imperia II, though, when it decided it might be in conflict with their other space strategy project, which became known as StarCraft. THQ eventually contracted with Heliotrope and released the game in 1997 as Pax Imperia: Eminent Domain.

Technology[edit]

Warden client[edit]

Main article: Warden (software)

Blizzard has made use of a special form of software known as the 'Warden Client'. The Warden client is known to be used with Blizzard's Online Games such as Diablo and World of Warcraft, and the Terms of Service contain a clause consenting to the Warden software's RAM scans while a Blizzard game is running.[37]

The Warden client scans a small portion of the code segment of running processes in order to determine whether any third-party programs are running. The goal of this is to detect and address players who may be attempting to run unsigned code or third party programs in the game. This determination of third party programs is made by hashing the scanned strings and comparing the hashed value to a list of hashes assumed to correspond to banned third party programs.[38] The Warden's reliability in correctly discerning legitimate versus illegitimate actions was called into question when a large scale incident happened when many Linux users were banned after an update to Warden caused it to incorrectly detect Cedega as a cheat program.[39] Blizzard issued a statement claiming they had correctly identified and restored all accounts and credited them with 20 days play.[40] Warden scans all processes running on a computer, not just the World of Warcraft game, and could possibly run across what would be considered private information and other personally identifiable information. It is because of these peripheral scans that Warden has been accused of being spyware and has run afoul of controversy among privacy advocates.[41][42][43]

Battle.net 2.0[edit]

Main article: Battle.net

Blizzard released its revamped Battle.net service in 2009. This service allows people who have purchased Blizzard products (StarCraft, StarCraft II, Diablo II, and Warcraft III, as well as their expansions) to download digital copies of games they have purchased, without needing any physical media.

On November 11, 2009, Blizzard required all World of Warcraft accounts to switch over to Battle.net Accounts. This transition now means that all current Blizzard titles can be accessed, downloaded, and played with a singular Battle.net login.[44]

Battle.net 2.0 is the new platform for matchmaking service for Blizzard games which offers players a host of additional features. Players will now be able to track their friend's achievements, view match history, avatars, etc. Players will also be able to unlock a wide range of achievements (rewards for completing game content) for Blizzard games. This means players can enjoy new avatars, decals, badges etc, for their accounts.

The service also allows players to chat simultaneously with players from other Blizzard games. For example, players no longer need to create multiple user names or accounts for most Blizzard products. StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft and the Battle.net Launcher support the ability for users to cross communicate. This means that a player could be in a game of StarCraft II, and he/she may send or receive messages from friends playing World of Warcraft or Diablo III. To enable cross game communication players need to become either Battletag or Real ID friends..

Privacy controversy and Real ID[edit]

On July 6, 2010, Blizzard announced that they were changing the way their forums worked to require that users identify themselves with their real name.[45][46] The reaction from the community was overwhelmingly negative with multiple game magazines calling the change "foolhardy"[47] and an "Epic Fail".[48] It resulted in a significant user response on the Blizzard forums, including one thread on the issue reaching over 11,000 replies.[49][50][51][52][53] This included personal details of a Blizzard employee who gave his real name "to show it wasn't a big deal".[54] Shortly after revealing his real name, forum users posted personal information including his phone number, picture, age, and home address.[49]

Some technology media outlets suggested that displaying real names through Real ID is a good idea and would benefit both Battle.net and the Blizzard community.[55] But others were worried that Blizzard were opening their fans up to real-life dangers such as stalking, harassment, and employment issues, since a simple Internet search by someone's employer can reveal their online activities.[49][56][57][58]

Blizzard initially responded to some of the concerns by saying that the changes would not be retroactive to previous posts, that parents could set up the system so that minors cannot post, and that posting to the forums is optional.[59] However, due to the huge negative response, Blizzard President Michael Morhaime issued a statement rescinding the plan to use real names on Blizzard's forums for the time being.[60]

Apart from the negative side effects of Real ID relating to privacy, the new addition boasts new features for current Blizzard titles. For instance, real names for friends, cross-realm and cross-game chat, rich presence and broadcasts are included with the Real ID system.[61]

Real names for friends: Real ID friends will appear under their real-life names on friends lists. This means that when chatting, communicating in-game, or viewing a character's profile, the user will be able to retrieve the player's account name as opposed to the character name. Blizzard offers the rationalization that "this saves the hassle of remembering multiple character names in order to communicate" but fail to mention that this means you can always be found when playing the game, no matter what characters or even server you are currently logged in on.

Cross-realm and cross-game chat: With Real ID, friends can chat cross-realm and cross-faction in World of Warcraft. Prior to Real ID this was not possible as players needed to be on the same server and same faction in order to communicate. Furthermore, cross game chat was not available to players playing different Blizzard titles. This is no longer the case as Real ID allows players to chat across different Blizzard games like Starcraft 2 to Diablo 3 to World of Warcraft.

Rich Presence: This feature allows players to track and monitor what their friends are playing in real time. This means when they open their friends list they will be able to view the current game their friend might be playing. Broadcasts: Allows players to broadcast a short status message for their friends to see. This means a player can make his or her status busy, available, etc. In additon, a player can send out short messages to update any change of plans which can be viewed by all friends.

Legal disputes[edit]

StarCraft privacy lawsuit[edit]

In 1998 Donald P. Driscoll, an Albany, California attorney filed a suit on behalf of Intervention, Inc., a California consumer group against Blizzard Entertainment for "unlawful business practices" for the action of collecting data from a user's computer without their permission.[62][63]

FreeCraft[edit]

Main article: Stratagus

On June 20, 2003, Blizzard issued a cease and desist letter to the developers of an open source clone of the Warcraft engine called FreeCraft, claiming trademark infringement. This hobby project had the same gameplay and characters as Warcraft II, but came with different graphics and music.

As well as a similar name, FreeCraft enabled gamers to use Warcraft II graphics, provided they had the Warcraft II CD. The programmers of the clone shut down their site without challenge. Soon after that the developers regrouped to continue the work by the name of Stratagus.[64]

World of Warcraft Private Server Complications[edit]

On December 5, 2008, Blizzard issued a cease and desist letter to many administrators of high population World of Warcraft private servers (essentially slightly altered hosting servers of the actual World of Warcraft game, that players do not have to pay for). Blizzard used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to influence many private servers to fully shut down and cease to exist.[65] In 2008 a private server by the name of ChaosCrusade was served with a DMCA notification.[66]

Founder Electronics infringement lawsuit[edit]

On August 14, 2007, Beijing University Founder Electronics Co., Ltd. sued Blizzard Entertainment Limited for copyright infringement claiming 100 million yuan in damages. The lawsuit alleged the Chinese edition of World of Warcraft reproduced a number of Chinese typefaces made by Founder Electronics without permission.[67]

MDY Industries, LLC v. Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.[edit]

Main article: Glider (bot)

On July 14, 2008, the U.S. District of Arizona ruled on the case MDY Industries, LLC v. Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. The Court found that MDY was liable for copyright infringement since users of its Glider bot program were breaking the End User License Agreement and Terms of Use for World of Warcraft. MDY Industries appealed the judgment of the district court, and a judgment was delivered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on December 14, 2010, in which the summary judgment against MDY for contributory copyright infringement was reversed.[68][69] Nevertheless, they ruled that the bot violated the DMCA and the case was sent back to the district court for review in light of this decision.[70][71]

Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. v. Valve Corporation[edit]

Shortly after Valve Corporation filed its trademark for "Dota" to secure the franchising rights for Dota 2, DotA-Allstars, LLC, run by former contributors to the games's predecessor, Defense of the Ancients, filed an opposing trademark in August 2010.[72] DotA All-Stars, LLC was sold to Blizzard Entertainment in 2011. After the opposition was overruled in Valve's favor, Blizzard filed an opposition against Valve in November 2011, citing their license agreement with developers, as well as their ownership of DotA-Allstars, LLC.[73] Blizzard conceded their case in May 2012, however, giving Valve undisputed commercial rights to Dota, while Blizzard would rename their StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm mod "Blizzard All-Stars", which would become the stand-alone game, Heroes of the Storm.[74]

Related companies[edit]

Over the years, some former Blizzard employees have moved on and established gaming companies of their own:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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