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Hearthstone has "far exceeded" Blizzard's expectations for it

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Hearthstone has "far exceeded" Blizzard's expectations for it

Perhaps it’s not quite right to characterise Hearthstone as the little card game that could. With the spectacular machinery of Blizzard behind it, an armpit-fart simulator could become one of the most popular games in the world.

But the handful of Blizzard staffers I’ve spoken to this year have all expressed surprise at how large a part of their lives the CCG has become. Last night, CEO Mike Morhaime told investors that Hearthstone had dramatically outstripped its creators hopes for it.

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Blizzard see "positive signs" that they can "win back" subscribers with Warlords of Draenor

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Blizzard see "positive signs" that they can "win back" subscribers with Warlords of Draenor

Shareholders, bless them, can be a panicky bunch. They see the graceful decline on World of Warcraft’s graphs and - forgetting that it remains the biggest subscription MMO in the world - ask Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime if there’s any chance of a free-to-play reprieve.

“I don’t foresee any dramatic changes to our business model," Morhaime told investors last night - and added that Blizzard are confident in the steps they've taken to ensure players want to “stick around" after Warlords of Draenor.

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Diablo III becomes the last major Blizzard game to get a Chinese launch

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Diablo III becomes the last major Blizzard game to get a Chinese launch

Diablo III occupies a strange rockpool in the space-time continuum. Just two years old, it feels like it’s been with us forever: never not being streamed, and never quite finished - even after Reaper of Souls.

But there’s still one major market on the planet where Diablo III never arrived: China. Blizzard will partner with local internet company NetEase to lower the final of their five series pillars into place in the region.

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Blizzard's Mike Morhaime on inclusivity: "We are challenging ourselves to draw from more diverse voices"

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Blizzard's Mike Morhaime on inclusivity: "We are challenging ourselves to draw from more diverse voices"

Blizzard president Mike Morhaime has said that the studio is making and effort to ensure that its games and stories are as inclusive and epic as possible.

The comments were made in a response to an open letter from a player who has drifted away from Blizzard’s games due to the lack of gender and ethnic diversity in the likes of World of Warcraft and Diablo III. 

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Blizzard tell investors Heroes of the Storm is "more welcoming" than its peers, "already fun"

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Blizzard tell investors Heroes of the Storm is "more welcoming" than its peers, "already fun"

We’re well used to the idea of broken betas and iffy early access by now, but Heroes of the Storm launched in something called Technical Alpha. Blizzard couldn’t have made the thing sound less finished if they’d asked testers to wear hard hats for the duration of play.

But it was good! Noted critics called Heroes of the Storm a triumph. And feedback has been such that Blizzard are now confident enough to tell their investors that the game is “very good" - an accessible entry point to the already hugely popular MOBA genre.

“We think that there is an opportunity to make the genre even more approachable for new players," said CEO Mike Morhaime. “I think that it can skew very hardcore, and there is definitely room for improvement in that area while still maintaining the depth and replayability that exist there."

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Hearthstone's single player adventure Curse of Naxxramas coming "this summer"

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Hearthstone's single player adventure Curse of Naxxramas coming "this summer"

In Hearthstone, we’ve become used to conducting our card games down the pub - surrounded by light, laughter, and human(oid) warmth, or at least the ambient, audible suggestion of it. It's all rather lovely going by Nick's Hearthstone review.

The announcement of single player adventure Curse of Naxxramas promised to change all that - to sling us into a dank dungeon, where alone we might face down fungal horrors and oversized arachnids across the board.

At least now we know it’ll be summer outside.

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What you sow: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls sells 2.7 million copies in first week

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What you sow: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls sells 2.7 million copies in first week

Blizzard took a risk with Diablo III’s first ever expansion: they separated Loot 2.0 out into a free update, and let it stand by itself. Our Reaper of Souls review says that it worked: a new campaign, Crusader class and adventure mode proved enough meat to pull in current and relapsed players alike, to the tune of 1.5 million thwarted Malthaels - and 2.7 million copies in the first week.

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Don’t call it a decline: World of Warcraft subscriptions are back up a bit

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Don’t call it a decline: World of Warcraft subscriptions are back up a bit

MMO doomsayers like to characterise World of Warcraft’s twilight years the way Telltale describe The Walking Dead - like a man slipping inexorably down a hill, desperately grasping for things to hold onto.

In actuality, Blizzard are playing ongoing WoW development more like Tiny Wings - keeping their heads down to ensure the highest possible peak after each trough. Mists of Pandaria came out at the tail end of 2012, and first annual expansion Warlords of Draenor isn’t due till later this year - but the books have already turned up again.

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Blizzard want World of Warcraft expansions to become an annual occurrence

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Blizzard want World of Warcraft expansions to become an annual occurrence

As Blizzard are likely reminded whenever they forget not to read news stories like this one, World of Warcraft’s subscriber base is falling. Not like a stone, but a spinning jenny. Gracefully, but steadily.

Even so, more of their staff are being sent to Azeroth’s coalface than ever before, and fewer returning to work on other projects. So what fearsome workflow paradox is gobbling up some of PC gaming’s most talented developers?

The nebulous, ever-changing Next Expansion, it turns out.

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Blizzard already working on next expansion after Warlords of Draenor

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Blizzard already working on next expansion after Warlords of Draenor

Blizzard are changing their game plan when it comes to future expansions to the world of Azeroth. For the first time, Blizzard are already hard at work at their next expansion for World of Warcraft, the one after the recently announced Warlords of Draenor. Understanding that they need to keep the playbase engaged and subscribed, Blizzard will be releasing these expansions on “a faster cadence".

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It was Diablo III's console version who stuck the last nail in the auction house's coffin

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It was Diablo III's console version who stuck the last nail in the auction house's coffin

Imagine if all Diablo III trading business was conducted inside an actual coffin. Madness! All cramped gold transactions over peoples’ shoulders and swords passed gingerly between peoples’ hips. But it’s not - that was actually a metaphor, and in any case the auction house is due to close in March.

As it turns out, Diablo III’s rather successful console port has had something to do with that.

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Blizzard have “more resources focused on building content for World of Warcraft than ever before”

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Blizzard have “more resources focused on building content for World of Warcraft than ever before”

The headline news for the Blizzard bit of Activision’s earnings call last night was that World of Warcraft subscriber numbers are still declining, and appear to be picking up speed. That’s a disconcerting thought for Azeroth’s inhabitants, who can see Blizzard pumping cash into what they hope will be new floats for the company to bob along on once WoW is fully deflated - Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm.

But Blizzard haven’t begun the long, finickety process of pulling out of WoW just yet. Indeed, they’ve upped its budget to ensure that “it can continue having a long and happy life".

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eSports exploding, say eSports executives at MIT-Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

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eSports exploding, say eSports executives at MIT-Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

Last Friday, while rumors swirled that IPL 6 was definitely cancelled and the LCS “super week" continued its marathon, a small audience gathered on the second floor of the Boston Convention and Exposition Center to hear the heads of Blizzard, MLG, Twitch, and the Houston Rockets basketball team talk about how eSports have grown in the last two years.

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StarCraft 2 2.0.4 patch adds new replay features and revamps menus

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StarCraft 2 2.0.4 patch adds new replay features and revamps menusA substantial Wings of Liberty patch for Starcraft 2, which will bring the game up to version 2.0.4, is “on the horizon" according to a post on the game’s official forum. The patch will revamp the menu screens, as well as Clans and Groups, and add new replay features.

Blizzard have warned their community that it’s not a small patch, either, and took the opportunity to remind players that it’s worth leaving the the StarCraft 2 launcher running in the background to pre-load the patch, since the launcher has background downloading enabled.

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