|IMG Chats with Blizzard's Bill Roper at Macworld|
July 18, 2002 | Andy Largent
While brief in length, Blizzard's newest cross-platform title, WarCraft III, was the only game to be mentioned in Steve Jobs' keynote address yesterday. IMG sat down with Blizzard's front man Bill Roper to talk more about the game's success, their future plans, and the state of Mac gaming in general.
We first discussed WarCraft III's hybrid box, something they weren't quite able to do with their last major release, Diablo II. Bill explained that while some Mac people would like a seperate Mac box to track sales, the hybrid is actually a better strategy in his mind. Because the a hybrid box reduces costs on seperate boxes and packaging, it, "makes the Mac ports have less chance of going away."
Then we had to ask the innevitable question about Blizzard's only other non-shipping title, the massively multiplayer Worlds of WarCraft. Many Mac gamers will recall there has been no announcement for the Mac yet, but also remember that Blizzard has yet to not make a Mac title.
Tempering this optimism is the factor that Worlds of WarCraft is different from anything they've made before. He notes, "with Worlds of WarCraft, everything is different as far as how we're going to support it or whether it's even going to run through or even be associated with Battle.net. A lot of it is just deciding how we are going to approach a lot of this stuff. But we know we have a lot of people who are wanting to play massively multiplayer games on their Macintoshes."
When asked about whether Worlds of WarCraft would be available next year, Roper was more hesistant to give a firm date, saying "that's an unannounced launch date title, but we'll probably be able to launch it in 2003. We expect it to be out next year, but we don't know how long our beta process is going to be. Because we don't know; we don't know if it's going to take a month or a year for the beta.
"We are shooting for something that's mass market, and we are not going to be happy with something with 200,000 subscribers, we want 2 million subscribers. And to capture that market, the game has got to be rock-solid. I think that -- even though they gripe about it -- core gamers go into one of these games knowing that it's organic and that there are going to be problems down the road. And even if they're not completely happy with it, they're willing to go along for the ride for a few months.
"Cousin Jimmy, who gets the game as a gift, loads it up and if it doesn't work on his system goes and returns it immediately. So it's got to be solid. We want to allow ourselves enough time that when it comes out on the shelf and someone buys it, whether they're an expert or not, are going to have a great experience. "
When asked about Apple's new announcements regarding Mac OS 10.2 "Jaguar", Roper seemed excited about its possibilities, "I think it's a pretty exciting time, they've got a lot of cool stuff lined up. It's one of those things that I'm sure the guys back home are going to get very excited about, as they always do when a new OS comes out. And we've talked with Apple too about Jaguar. They really iwanted it to be rock-solid with the products that are available, and WarCraft III is one of those. We're actually already working with them on making sure that it's totally bulletproof upon release."
The conversation then shifted to Apple's gaming focus and his thoughts on the new "Switch" campaign. Roper notes that, "one of the things Apple has always built their success upon is the fanbase. No one is more pasionate and vocal about their love of a platform than Mac users. So from a hardware standpoint, they've got that down."
He then noted that the gamer is a crucial piece of the puzzle for overall success of a platform, and that Apple should try and find a gamer to speak in one of their commercials as well.
"No one is more passionate about what you should be getting than a gamer," says Roper, "and if you can convince a gamer to go out and by a Macintosh, he's gonna be the one to tell his 40 friends. For example, a friend took his cube to a LAN party to play WarCraft III and immediately set up his network. But he had to wait two hours for everyone else on a PC to get their machines together. He felt like he had the superior machine there."
A huge thanks to Bill Roper and the other Blizzard staff on hand for all of their help during the show.