Q: You're sitting atop a large pile of people, and there's a lot of industry going on around you. How do you go about effectively running this level of business when there's no similar model to base it on?
Mike Morhaime: Well, it is interesting to think about. It's all been brand new for us for the past 25 years! We've gone through several rounds – iterations – in terms of how we manage all this stuff, and how we develop games, and what it means to be supporting games after they release, and what it means to go from the box model to the continuous development model. At this stage, we think it's very important to have dedicated leadership teams focussed on each franchise. For the past couple of years, we've been really trying to build out those leadership teams. I think we're not quite where we know we need to be, there's a few holes that we still need to fill. We'd like to be able to develop things faster and see where we're going – react quicker. But we're definitely on the right path!
Q: What's the ultimate capacity for Blizzard? Does this management model mean you could potentially support dozens of games in development?
Mike Morhaime: I don't know! Our aspiration has never been to just scale up and do hundreds of games. We think focussing on a small number of games and doing them really well – that's what we're good at. Six is already a lot, and that's required a lot of scaling up of the company to be able to do. It's also really important to us to do that well in a global level because we have players all over the world and all these different languages and everything. Right now, it's really just about focussing on the games that we have in development / that we're operating, and make sure that we're doing a great job supporting those and supporting our players.
Q: Does the announcement of Activision Blizzard Studios mark the point at which Blizzard becomes a media organisation, as opposed to a gaming organisation?
Mike Morhaime: We've been creating entertainment franchises that... we've dabbled a little bit outside of games for a long time. We do think of ourselves primarily as a game company, though. I'm really excited about finally bringing Warcraft to the silver screen this summer, and I think that we have several game franchises that could be great feature films. I think it's great that maybe this opens some doors for us to be able to explore that sort of thing more.
Q: Is there the potential for that relationship to come full circle, and for content generated outside of the traditional Blizzard campus to find its way into Blizzard games?
Mike Morhaime: I think we'll retain that creative generation internally at Blizzard.
Q: Talking about the scope of your games, is Blizzard still interested in doing some smaller titles? Tablet games, for example, using properties in ways that don't require a lot of investment or post-release support (outside of the odd patch)?
Mike Morhaime: I think at this point right now our focus is on the six games that you know about; making sure they're as good as possible. I think there's some opportunity in terms of mobile and tablet to support around-game stuff – figure out how to support the community better. We have a WCS app [iPhone, iPad] that helps you track the StarCraft tournaments that are going on. I think there's a lot more things like that that we could be doing. In terms of mobile games, right now the focus is on Hearthstone.
Q: A recent job posting has gotten tongues wagging. Are you able to speak to why you're hiring a senior engineer for classic games?
Mike Morhaime: I would just say that we like that people are able to play our games for many, many years, and with so many changes in hardware, software, and operating systems, we realised that we really need to dedicate more resources to looking at our legacy titles and how they're playing on modern equipment. Nothing to announce at this point, we're just building a small team that's going to be focussed on doing that.
Q: The recent announcement of Australian-based StarCraft II servers, expanding the existing local infrastructure, is much appreciated by players in the ANZ region. Are you able to speak to how you determine when and where to allocate this kind of resource?
Mike Morhaime: We look at the size of the player base and market, and we also look at the latency you have to deal with. In terms of size of the player base, Australia's not one of the bigger markets, but in terms of the latency you have to deal with, it's a pretty bad experience if you don't have local servers.
Q: Can you tell me about what your days looks like? You broke into this industry out of passion for gaming. Now, there are a lot of people relying on decisions you make. Do you spend much time talking about games?
Mike Morhaime: Not as much as I would like to, not as much as I used to. But I do spend a lot of time talking with all of the leadership across Blizzard. Pretty much everything that's going on with Blizzard, all over the world, at a strategic level, I get to be involved in. I still try to play our games, I do provide gameplay feedback.
Although, we've got people that are much better at that than I am in terms of actually solving some of the really complex challenges we have to deal with! But I get to participate in those discussions, and I get to make my suggestions. I think – luckily for all of us – we have some really talented people on each of the teams that are actually doing the heavy lifting!
Q: How does a random idea from someone somewhere within Blizzard get exposed, considered, and developed? Is there a process setup to capture the magic?
Mike Morhaime: It's a little bit different on each of the teams. Take the Overwatch team; that game has been available for employees to test for several months leading into beta. There is a channel for feedback so that anybody in the company has been able to provide details about their experience, their suggestions, challenges that they've run into, and that goes directly to the folks that are designing the game. I think that that is such a powerful tool; everybody at Blizzard – regardless of what your role is, or where you're working in the world – is able to influence the quality of the game.
Q: Do you have specific, structured ways in which employees are given opportunities to explore new ideas, like Google's ’20 percent time’?
Mike Morhaime: Probably not as formally as Google. It's a lot more organic. We're constantly talking with each other when we go out to lunch, when we're playing different games, and brainstorming the what-ifs. "What if we did this, what if we did that, what if we took this idea but changed it in some way – how cool would that be?" What ends up happening is these ideas sort of percolate, and at some point one of our game teams – usually the game director – will start getting excited about a particular idea. We do have a greenlight process: when we're ready to kick off a new project, we'll have a game director pitch that to some of the other senior leaders at the company and we'll decide if we want to devote resources to it.