Microsoft completed its acquisition of Activision Blizzard in October, and shortly thereafter, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer confirmed on the Official Xbox Podcast that he was going to visit Activision Blizzard studios in the coming weeks. Spencer did this ahead of BlizzCon 2023, where he also made an appearance during the opening ceremony to reaffirm Xbox’s commitment to supporting all of Blizzard’s major franchises. To get a better idea of what Spencer’s studio visit and BlizzCon attendance was like for Blizzard developers, we asked John Hight, general manager of the Warcraft franchise, and Rod Ferguson, general manager of Diablo, about the experience.
“Really those few weeks ago, Phil and a lot of his leadership team came forward. “The cool thing about it was we had prepared all these PowerPoints and stuff, but they just wanted to meet the teams,” Haight told . “They had lunch on our patio, in the café. We had hundreds of employees and Phil made himself available to talk to people. He just wanted to watch some games and meet some people, so we gave him a demo of one of these arenas the war Within for a while, and then we had [game designer] Tom [Chilton] demo warcraft thunder, It was funny because we started doing introductions and I said ‘Clearly you’re having fun playing the game, you can tune in and just play it.’ They have been very supportive. I think they’re excited by the fact that, especially with Warcraft, we have a variety of games and platforms that we’re building for.
For Ferguson, the Phil Spencer connection runs even deeper, as he worked with Microsoft for several years on the Gears of War franchise. He echoed many of Haight’s sentiments, confirming that the primary goal of the Xbox leadership visit was to get to know the people at Blizzard Entertainment.
,“He and his leadership team came on a day trip to meet people, and it was great,” Ferguson told . “They were doing this kind of road show where they went to King and then Activision and then they came to Blizzard. But it was less focused on ‘here’s our strategy’ or ‘here’s all the business stuff’. It’s ‘Who are you?’ Was more about. Who are these people?’ They got to meet the leadership teams, introduce everyone and just generally get to know who people are, from names to faces, which was really cool.
Ferguson then discussed Spencer’s appearance at BlizzCon in detail, saying it reminded him of working with Spencer at E3 2019. Ferguson compared the feeling to that of a band getting back together.
“At the opening ceremony, it was nice to have Phil there because I was on stage with him at E3 in 2019. Putting him backstage, making fun of him while he’s getting his makeup done, and all these things felt very familiar. I mean, I worked at Microsoft for 15 years, so it feels good to go back to that group. It feels like getting the band back together. The exciting thing is that Microsoft is going to enable and empower Blizzard. As Phil said in the speech, he will make sure we can do the work we want to do and empower us to do it.
In terms of Blizzard’s next big launch under Microsoft, world of warcraft war within expansion and Diablo IV’s Hatred Both expansions are expected to open in 2024.
Disclosure: Blizzard Entertainment and PR agency TriplePoint paid for accommodation so could attend BlizzCon 2023.