Organization Name: Blizzard Entertainment
Industry: Video Games
Blizzard Entertainment is an American video game developer and publisher founded February 8, 1991. The company has produced multiple successful video games with their three main franchises: Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo. All of their franchises have spawned award winning titles to astounding financial success. Their games have also been innovative, either creating new genres or greatly improving existing genres. While Blizzard is an American company, their games are internationally well known and are being played by millions around the world.
Blizzard Entertainment’s eight core values represent the principles and beliefs that have guided the company to success in developing their games. The following are Blizzard’s core values:
- Gameplay FIRST
- Commit to QUALITY
- Play nice; PLAY FAIR
- Embrace your INNER GEEK
- Every voice MATTERS
- Think GLOBALLY
- Lead RESPONSIBLY
- Learn & GROW
Each of these cores values are the driving force of what makes their games so successful and why Blizzard has top-notch customer engagement. However, in order to understand how Blizzard does customer engagement, the culture that the company helped build must be explained.
Blizzard Entertainment’s franchise, Starcraft, can also be partially credited for helping popularize eSports and bringing competitive online gaming into the main stream. ESports is a term for organized multiplayer video game competitions between professional players where they compete in leagues or tournaments. Starcraft: Brood War, the expansion pack of the original game Starcraft, became a critical success in South Korea, so much so that professional players in 2002 started to form teams and began to play against each other in leagues on television. South Korean television networks, Ongamenet and MBCGame, each had their own Starcraft league where millions across the country tuned in to watch professional teams pit players against each other on TV. Fans cheered for their favourite teams or players as though it was like any other sport. The popularity of professional Starcraft spread to other countries where people began to dub over the South Korean commentaries for their native language.
It wasn’t until Starcraft 2 came out that Blizzard began to really focus on nurturing eSports within its games. Prior to the release of the popular sequel, Starcraft: Brood War’s competitive scene was run by independent organizations that were not associated with the company. With the release of Starcraft 2, that changed as the Starcraft 2 World Championship Series (WCS) was created. With the WCS, Blizzard finally took control of the professional Starcraft eSport scene. With the WCS, Blizzard finally took control of the professional Starcraft eSport scene which helped further increase the popularity of eSports in general.
The game of Starcraft can be described as chess on speed. Starcraft is a real-time strategy game where players control build armies and manage resources in order to attack and destroy their opponents. A player wins when all of their opponent’s buildings are destroyed or when a player surrenders.
There are three unique races in Starcraft with different units and technologies. Although the three races are very different in its composition, no race has an innate advantage over the other which is why the game can be played at a competitive level. The game is balanced to the point where many consider Starcraft as one of the best eSports games ever made.
The Customer Experience and How Blizzard Delivers It
With the release of Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty – the sequel to Starcraft: Brood Wars which took more than ten years to be released – saw a huge increase of interest in eSports and competitive gaming in the North American market. The franchise and eSports in general became more popular with fans hosting live internet streams of professional games of Starcraft 2 at bars or restaurants. These events are now known as being a”BarCraft” event. BarCraft events became a social gathering of fans to watch Starcraft eSports as a community in a public setting. Blizzard helped fans create their own BarCraft event by having a strategy guide on their website that provides instructions on how to do so. Their website also lists BarCraft events taking place across North America.
Blizzard’s social media and customer engagement is handled through various platforms and separated by their different games. For example, Starcraft 2 and World of Warcraft each have their own Facebook page and Twitter handle. This is done for all of their games (or “brands”) to ensure that content management is consistent with each brand and to provide more transparency to customers. Having the brands separated also means that fans on social media for that game can get the latest news updated, patch releases, and information regarding any changes.
Besides typical social media platforms Blizzard also have their forums separated into each brand as well. Their forums are also another way that the company engages with their customers as players can start threads related to their favourite game or suggestions on balance changes.
Customer feedback is an important part of Blizzard’s video game development as feedback helps the company in making decisions to balance their games for competition. While the company does have it’s own internal balance team and statistics of game percentage for certain variables (such as win rates for Starcraft or Starcraft 2), the company does rely on customer feedback from the community via social media to improve the quality of the games. The feedback gathered from customers helps provide a better customer experience for gamers since the developers can listen into what players want or changes that need to be made.
Beta tests (before a game is released) also require a significant amount of feedback from gamers. Initially game testing is done in a closed beta first, where a select few gamers are chosen to play the game and provide feedback regarding game play. Once the game is further developed, Blizzard opens up testing to more people so they can collect data from a wider audience and bigger pool of gamers. This is done to improve the game for the player as much as possible before the game is released out onto the market.
Art From The Community
Fans of Blizzard games are not just enthusiastic about playing the games, but everything surrounding the rich lore and characters surrounding the games. There is lots of artwork of characters from the games that can be found online and for Blizzard’s Warcraft series, their blog features weekly posts on community fan art which the company shares with other fans to enjoy.
Through Blizzard’s community forums and other various fan websites. Fans themselves also post their own creation; from music, to costumes, to other arts and crafts. And while a lot of it is content driven by fans, Blizzard does a great job in sharing that content and involving the community.
Enter the Blizzcon Experience
Blizzcon is a video game convention that takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California held by the company once a year to promote their major franchises. The convention features game-related announcements, previews of upcoming Blizzard Entertainment games and content, Q&A sessions and panels, and playable versions of various Blizzard games, and various professional competitions of their games.
While it is only a two day event full of activities, free merchandise, and eSports, customers can purchase a virtual ticket to view the event live through online stream on Blizzard’s website. A BlizzCon virtual ticket does cost $39.99 which allows customers to view the event live or replay video in the comfortable of their own home. To provide even more Value, BlizzCon virtual tickets also include free in-game bonuses like collectible pets or unique avatars that can only be collected by purchasing a ticket.
Lessons for Others
Blizzard’s games are well known for its quality and gameplay, but it’s the company’s customer engagement that provides an unique customer experience though developing the online communities surrounding the games. Their customer engagement strategy is to nurture their gaming communities and help them grow in order to create customer loyalty. This can be seen through Blizzard getting involved in eSports and promoting it, encouraging customer feedback for developing and improving their games, and providing a great customer experience with BlizzCon and making it accessible to fans who can’t physically be there.
What other companies can learn from Blizzard is to listen to their customers and help them build and support a community around their brand(s). This is a proactive approach to customer engagement and companies need to be in-tuned with what customers want from them. In Blizzard’s case, they understand that their customers want an experience that goes beyond playing video games, which is why their social media strategy has been so effective.
Submitted By: Benjamin Wong
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