Blizzard is in the eye of a storm. In the wake of a departing studio head and two major delays of anticipated games, the Diablo and Overwatch developer is bleeding players across the board, as it revealed during an Activision Blizzard earnings call last night. Across its portfolio, the studio’s monthly active users plummeted by 13 per cent year-over-year, to 26 million.
It’s no stretch to say that Blizzard is in somewhat of a liminal phase, for obvious reasons. In July, the state of California filed suit against Activision, alleging a deep-seated culture of sexual harassment and discriminaton, with many of the claims levied directly at Blizzard. Studio president J. Allan Brack stepped down within a few weeks, and was summarily replaced by joint studio heads Mike Ybarra and Jen Oneal, the latter of whom announced her resignation yesterday. In August, following Kotaku reporting about the so-called “Cosby suite” mentioned in the initial lawsuit, two creative leads on Diablo IV were let go from the company.
Blizzard’s dwindling playerbase can be chalked up to a confluence of factors. For one, its release slate has been relatively thin as of late, with the future not looking so flush either. In September, Blizzard released Diablo II: Resurrected, a remake of the 2000 dungeon-crawler that looks prettier than the original but fundamentally plays the same. Yesterday, the forthcoming blockbusters Diablo IV and Overwatch 2 were delayed from unspecified release dates to unspecified but definitely later release dates.
The developer’s debatably biggest and most reliable hit, World of Warcraft, has faced competition in recent months too, thanks to a little game called New World. Though the Amazon-published MMO released to eye-popping numbers, interest has cooled somewhat. But it’s still quite healthy, consistently sporting six-figure concurrent player counts, according to tracking site SteamDB.
Amid everything, Activision Blizzard’s stock (ATVI) dropped by more than 10 points overnight, the most significant single drop it’s seen in six months. This quietly reveals the market’s priorities, huh?
Of course, the stock market is all made up, and single-day drops happen all the time. It’s the trend that counts in the long run. But right now, the trend’s not looking great for Blizzard.