How Riot helped Blizzard rethink their strategy: ‘It’s important the players know that you’re listening’

marc merrill mike morhaime

Mike Morhaime (pictured right), the co-founder and former president of Warcraft, Overwatch and Hearthstone developer Blizzard Entertainment, has spoken about how Riot Games made Blizzard rethink their strategy.

Speaking at a fireside chat with Riot co-founder Marc Merrill (pictured left) and moderated by Bitkraft founder Jens Hilgers, the Blizzard co-founder told Marc: “We were very inspired by what Riot was doing, especially how you cultivated the community, grew the community and formed a relationship with your community.

“Over time I think it really helped Blizzard rethink how it wanted to engage with its players. It used to be the relationship was more like… we’d keep our heads down, make stuff, we’d talk and get back to work.

“I’d watch and listen to what people were saying, when they would argue or critique stuff, and I almost felt like if I got engaged directly in that conversation, that was almost like violating something. They were having a conversation. Actually, that is incorrect.

“Nowadays you need to be engaged with the conversation, it’s important the players know that you’re listening. Otherwise they start feeling like they can say anything and the company’s not listening, so they just start being offensive.”

Marc said it’s a hard balance to get right and complimented Blizzard on how it interacts with its Overwatch community, including the ‘feedback loop’ it has with the game’s players.

Mike’s words are indicative of Blizzard’s actions over the past few years. The feeling is that Blizzard hasn’t really listened to the community as much as it should have, as it went from one PR disaster to another. From the way the Heroes of the Storm esports was cancelled, to the Diablo Immortal mobile phone game Blizzcon announcement, to the Blitzchung controversy, job cuts, Warcraft 3 Remastered debacle and more.

It’s ironic Mike is taking inspiration from Riot – a company that took inspiration for its League of Legends game on the community-made Dota mod for Warcraft 3 back in the day. Blizzard did nothing with said mod when it first arrived, allowing Valve and Riot to launch Dota 2 and League of Legends respectively in the years following it.

Blizzard’s own MOBA of course, Heroes of the Storm, launched late compared to the other two and it’s felt the game never really offered solid competition to them.

Mike Morhaime left Blizzard last year.

During the fireside chat, Marc also spoke about beating Riot’s own assumptions that League of Legends wouldn’t work on mobile, and how they rebuilt the Wild Rift mobile/console version of League and scaled it down for those platforms.

You can watch the full fireside chat here:

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