Monday, October 5, 2009

A look at Blizzard’s new website

A couple of days ago Blizzard launched a new corporate website. While the looks are fine – bluish, shiny, polished, better looking than the WoW community site, I wasn’t equally impressed by the content. I don’t think it’s to ask too much to expect a website to be fresh and up-to-date at the point of its launch.

Take Blizzard Insider for instance, the official newsletter. The last issue published is from March. Not exactly what you could expect. The podcast is slightly better, but is still dated July, when the discussion was about the new Coliseum instance. You would have expected another one to come out by now, marketing Cataclysm.

The truth is that if you want to keep yourself updated about game changes you’re way better off listening to fan podcasts such as WoW Insider Show and Twisted Nether.

Another embarrassing corner of the site is the press center. The last press release is dated July 22. Seriously, hasn’t anything of importance happened since then? Like… Blizzcon? Expansion plans? There probably were press releases included in the mega sized press kit (300 mb), which I really don’t bother to upload to my computer. But those releases should have been published straight off as well, for easy access and the possibility to find it in searches.

Mission statement
However: there is one part of the corporate site that melts my heart and makes me forgive the flaws and that is the mission statement of Blizzard: “Dedicated to creating the most epic entertainment experiences...ever.”

This beautiful declaration is followed by eight core values, the “principles and beliefs that have guided our company throughout the years. These values are reflected in employees' decisions and actions every day”, to use Blizzard’s words.

I’ve seen quite a few documents of this kind during my years as employed in different organisations. Usually I find them boring, vague and so unspecific that they could relate to any kind of business. Because of this they’re rather useless. There’s nothing that connects them to your work day and the different sorts of issues you come across in your job. You know the drill. “Service”. “Trust”. “Innovation”. “Responsibility”. Yada, yada, yada.

The core values of Blizzard are a bit different. They’re more direct and I could vividly imagine that they actually have an influence on the company culture and eventually also at the direction they’re taking in their decision making.

I like every one of those values and I suggest you read it for yourself. I’ll give two of my favourites as a sample.
”Commit To Quality

“Blizzard polish” doesn’t just refer to our gameplay experiences, but to every aspect of our jobs. We approach each task carefully and seriously. We seek honest feedback and use it to improve the quality of our work. At the end of the day, most players won’t remember whether the game was late -- only whether it was great.”

Reading this I feel bad about the constant craving for patches from the community: “OMFG why don’t they give us Icecrown NOW, we’re bored!” Actually I’m rather happy if they’re a bit slow and take their time to finish new content. I really don’t want Blizzard to compromise with this core value – which actually is rather brave and unusual in a world where the product lifecycles seem to spin faster and faster.

And here is my number one:
“Embrace your inner geek

Everyone here is a geek at heart. Cutting-edge technology, comic books, science fiction, top-end video cards, action figures with the kung-fu grip…. Whatever it is they’re passionate about, it matters that each employee embraces it! Their unique enthusiasm helps to shape the fun, creative culture that is Blizzard Entertainment.”
Seriously. A company which encourages geekiness and expects their employees to be “geeks at heart”, can you do anything but love it?

Dear Blizzard. Your corporate website definitely has some flaws, but as long as you keep embracing your inner geeks you can rest assured that I’ll remain a fan girl.


Tesh said...

The polish/feedback thing scares me a little, honestly. It's a dangerous principle in the hands of a micromanager who doesn't take well to feedback going upstream. I've seen it absolutely destroy morale.

SolidState said...

I've always liked the Google one: "Do no evil" :)

We Fly Spitfires said...

Meh, I don't think anyone is actually interested in corporate websites :) Not sure who goes there for a games company. It seems to be more one of those generic must have items are just required because everyone else has one.

Oh and the Google motto is just a marketing catchphrase. They sold out their morals to the Chinese in a nano-second :)

zetter said...

As soon as marketing get their hands on Mission Statements you know its going to be bad.
When we got our new corperate logo at work it needed a one page document to explain the meaning of it.
I think marketing tend to live in a separate universe detached from ours most of the time.


Fitz said...

It is kind of nifty that Blizzard took a little bit of time in crafting their 8 main principles instead of just rehashing the usual corporate glib. While I agree that some more press releases should be on the corporate site (@Spitfires, investors are very interested in corporate websites), the press releases you care about are fully covered elsewhere by a full community of websites. Blizzard's new look is snazzy.

Larísa said...

@Tesh: well, it all depends on the implementation. The goal must be to have such an open climate that you can give and take it without too much fuzz. But it's easerier said than done.

@SolidState: hever hard that one, but yeah, it's very catchy!

@We Fly Spitfires: Oh, there are definitely many uses of it. Think investor relations. Think recruitment. Think handing out basic information to media. And - not the least - think internal communication. How you appear to an external audience sends a message to the staff about what kind of complany you are. Some companies have websites just because other have it, but they're missing the point.

@Zetter: Hm... Yeah, marketing and PR people definitely need to become better to market themselves internally. It's quite common that our coworkers don't understand what we're up to and the point of it.

@Fitz: yeah, I know you get the news better elsewhere. But I think it's a sign of laziness and carlessness not to update a website, not even at the point where you're launching it. If they don't intend to keep an updated and meaningful press department on their site, they could as well take it away altogether.

Tesh said...

Aye, implementation is the key. I've just seen too many people take the high-minded ideal and bend it to micromanaging and project-killing procedures. Something in line with the whole "absolute power corrupts" line.