Blizzard Entertainment has recently celebrated one quarter of a century of existence. The company was founded back in 1991 as Silicon & Synapse and came a long way to become one of the leading video game developers and publishers. They were the driving force behind some of the best-known and liked franchises in video game history, such as Warcraft, Diablo and StarCraft.
Founded by three graduate students of the University of California it changed its name twice in 1994 to become Blizzard Entertainment. After focusing for a couple of years on creating game ports for other companies, they started developing their own games. Their first truly successful title was the Lost Vikings, a game that was published by Interplay Productions in 1993.
The Blizzard Entertainment breakthrough with Warcraft
In 2016, Warcraft The Beginning is one of the most anticipated movies of the year and it is based on the Warcraft Orcs and Humans game. Developed and published in 1994, Warcraft Orcs and Humans was the first truly competitive real-time strategy game and the starting point for the most profitable franchise in video game history. Two sequels followed and then Warcraft III, the last RTS videogame released by Blizzard Entertainment following the story of orcs and humans.
One decade after the original game was published, Blizzard Entertainment unveiled the World of Warcraft massive multiplayer online role-playing game. The next two installments consolidated the fan base, which peaked in 2010 at 12 million subscribers, during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion set. The number of subscribers dropped over the next couple of years, but the fan base was revitalized in the wake of the release of World of Warcraft Mists of Pandaria and World of Warcraft Warlords of Draenor.
Blizzard Entertainment was unable to restore those impressive numbers of 2010, but the MMORPG is still the most subscribed game of the genre. The company has high expectations with the upcoming World of Warcraft Legion which is set for international release in August 2016. The popular demand for a Hollywood blockbuster resulted in the production of Warcraft The Beginning, inspired by the franchise.
Blizzard Entertainment conquers the RPG genre with Diablo
In 1996, Blizzard Entertainment purchased Condor Games and with the new team, produced Diablo a role-playing game released in 1997. Its sequel Diablo II and the standalone expansion set Diablo II Lord of Destruction cemented the franchise and greatly expanded the player base. It took them 12 years to release the third installment in the series, one of the most anticipated video games of the decade.
Diablo III hit the stores in 2012 and picked up where the story left in the second installment, while introducing new classes and characters. Blizzard Entertainment made the most of the latest advancements of technology and unveiled a great looking video game. Famous for its gorgeous cinematics, the company reignited the enthusiasm for the franchise and the game sold millions of copies during the first week.
In the wake of its international release, developers started working on a console version and the game was available to play on PlayStation and Xbox One the very next year. Diablo III Reaper of Souls was released one year later, with the videogame continuing the story of the prequel and adding new features. Blizzard Entertainment opened in-game auction houses where players could use real currency, but decided to shut them down just three years later.
Blizzard Entertainment builds a stronghold in Korea with StarCraft
In 1998 when StarCraft was unveiled, the video game was expected to build on the popularity of Warcraft and its sequels. It greatly exceeded expectations and quickly became the most popular real-time strategy game in Korea and worldwide. StarCraft was the first videogame played in major tournaments with prize pools counting in millions of dollars. To some extent, its release marked the beginning of eSports, with the sequel being still the most played RTS game in Asia.
The expansion set The Brood War elevated the franchise to new highs and the competitive multiplayer games were the first to be streamed live. In 2010, Blizzard Entertainment released the sequel StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty, the first chapter in a trilogy that would include StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm and Starcraft 2 Legacy of the Void. They popular game mechanics, lovable characters and intriguing plot have returned, enhanced by better graphics, superior sound effects and cinematics.
Blizzard Entertainment made no announcements regarding the future of the franchise, but didn’t rule out the possibility of a new installment. The Nova mission pack was announced as downloadable content for 2016 and will consist of a total of 9 missions, divided into three chapters. StarCraft Ghosts was supposed to hit the stores in the early 2000s, but the project was dropped.
A bright future ahead for Blizzard Entertainment
The company counts on World of Warcraft Legion to restore the number of subscribers and reignite the interest for the franchise. Developers paid attention to the requests of fans and made many gameplay changes that were supposed to make the new release more exciting. Warcraft The Beginning has the potential of bringing the franchise back in the spotlight and attract players from the younger generation who haven’t played the MMORPG before.
Heroes of the Storm is the game that Blizzard Entertainment hopes to challenge Dota 2 with and League of Legends in the MOBA category. The video game has a long way to go to get to the top of the food chain in this niche, but the gap is quickly shrinking. Meanwhile, Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft is the unchallenged leader in the free to play online collectible card video game category. Playable on mobile devices, it has developed a solid fan base that is growing at a both casual and professional level.
Overwatch is a multiplayer FPS in development at Blizzard Entertainment headquarters and scheduled for release in the second half of 2016. The game received great feedback during beta testing and thousands of players have already preordered the game. The bottom line is that the Blizzard Entertainment success story is bound to continue and the sky is the limit for the videogame developer and publisher.