To put this story into perspective, consider late last year Blizzard announced that they were no longer going to reveal World of Warcraft subscriber numbers. At that time, subscriptions had been trending downward, and the last statistic publicly published was 5.5 million players. Last week, we reported that Hearthstone [Free] has topped 40 million players. Financially, without a few more data points it's a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, but regardless, the trajectory here is obvious: More people are interested in playing games they can play anywhere versus settling in with their Mountain Dew and Cheetos for a weekend-long WoW binge. (Not that that doesn't happen, hell, I've been recently guilty of participating in such things myself.)

Well, Venture Beat sat down with Blizzard heavy hitters Michael Morhaime, Frank Pearce, and Chris Metzen. The whole thing is totally worth a read, but relevant portions to us include all three feeling that mobile is an exciting development environment, as the company has multiple franchises that would work on mobile and tie together their heritage of real-time strategy games.


Frank Pearce tells Venture Beat, “If we were going to continue to evaluate experiences in real-time strategy, I think we’d have to figure out what that means to the current player space. [StarCraft II expansion] Legacy of the Void is great. [But] I don’t think that people want to sit down and play 45 minute missions any more. I think that space might need some reinventing.”

It's fascinating to think about how much the landscape has shifted when it comes to strategy games in general, real-time or not. While games like Warcraft or Starcraft may be what core gamers think of when they thing of real time strategy, millions of mobile gamers are scratching that same itch in incredibly bite sized chunks with games like Clash of Clans or similar. I'd love to see how Blizzard could innovate there.


Michael Morhaime agreed with Peace's assessment, but it's important to reinforce that it may be a while before we see the results of this thought process from Blizzard. They're a company notorious for taking their time, and getting things right. He adds, “I feel like there’s still a big opportunity in mobile beyond just casual games, I’m not sure we’ve figured out what that is yet.”

The sentiment is hard to argue, as with millions of millions of mobile devices in the wild, gamers of every kind has an iPhone or Android device in their pocket. Hearthstone proved that you can have a wildly successful free to play game that targets a more core demographic. It's going to be really cool seeing what Blizzard does next.

Just don't hold your breath, as it's inevitably going to take a while.

[via Venture Beat]

  • Stetch

    A mobile version of WoW can´t be a bad idea.

    • Edwin Ramirez

      But it seems like they are thinking of a Clash of Warcraft. I can only wish, if they do come out with a mobile RTS, for it to be a real RTS.

    • Eageron

      A mobile Version of StarCraft 2 would be the best! 😀

      • Stetch

        I guess many would be happy about that 🙂 Not for me though. Not into those kind of games.

  • Edwin Ramirez

    The last thing I would want is to see Blizzard publishing a warcraft themed Clash of clans. 45 minute missions don't sound bad when the game is good and you're not playing on a battery powered device. Hell, I play at least two Dota 2 matches daily.

    • qdisqust

      The matches can be shorter without being clash of clans. I much prefer heroes of the storm with its ~21 minute matches over dota2 or lol

      • Edwin Ramirez

        Lets hope it doesn't turn out to be yet another clone.
        But on the other side, short matches always leave me unsatisfied. Like with HotS, those 20 minute matches that sometimes turn out ending by themselves with nobody knowing why takes away all the satisfaction of winning a match.

  • qdisqust

    Fact/logical conclusion check: Blizz announced that they have 40 million registered players total for Hearthstone. That's not 40 million active players, or 40 million people playing on mobile. It's completely illogical to leap to the conclusion that this proves that people want games they can play anywhere vs an MMO.

    First, you're comparing registered players to active players, which is wrong.

    Second, it shows that you can get people to register for a free game because it's free.

    Third, it shows that games that are newer get more attention.

    Finally, it's likely that games that take 20 minutes to play get more registrations than games that require hours of dedicated time.

    And for example, with their reference to people not wanting to take 45 minutes to play a game... This isn't mobile specific. It's why the average game length of Heroes of the Storm is 21 minutes.

    They mention mobile, yes, and I'm sure they'll release more games for mobile, but please... Do better reporting, guys.

    • Eli Hodapp

      "Financially, without a few more data points it's a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, but regardless, the trajectory here is obvious: More people are interested in playing games they can play anywhere versus settling in with their Mountain Dew and Cheetos for a weekend-long WoW binge."

      • qdisqust

        Hedging an unsupported statement with a disclaimer doesn't make it any less incorrect to make the statement. It's like when a politician makes up some statistic and nobody hears the fact check.

      • staraffinity

        But isn't the point that the amount of people playing mobile games is *much* higher than the amount of players on traditional platforms? I think that can be considered a supported statement at least.

        I mean, 40 million registered user at least tell there's a big number of people interested – despite the game being "free to play". Even if only one third of those accounts are "active players" (whatever the criteria for that is) it's still a lot of people.

      • qdisqust

        Sure, but Hearthstone is available on PC and Mac as well as mobile platforms, and the board deck from Blizzard didn't break down the usage. So while it's probably true that a large percentage of that is mobile use, there are no facts presented in the referenced documentation to support that statement so it shouldn't be made.

        And as a side note, I've played both WoW and Hearthstone but I haven't played WoW for years, and it's been at least a year since I played Hearthstone. Yet I count as a 'registered user' for Hearthstone but not an active subscriber for WoW.

      • staraffinity

        So while it's probably true that a large percentage of that is mobile use, there are no facts presented in the referenced documentation to support that statement so it shouldn't be made

        Good point. It's a guess, but still a quite reasonable one to make I think. I mean, how many are subscribed to WoW and Heroes of the Storm? Can't be anywhere near as many as Hearthstone and the difference is that the latter is avaliable on mobile. But I agree that it's best to have data to back up ones claims instead of guessing. 🙂

      • Eli Hodapp

        I knew someone would try to argue that mobile isn't exploding when I posted this. It's not a big deal.

      • qdisqust

        That is NOT at all what I said. What I said was that the evidence you used doesn't support your claim at all. The 40 million number isn't even broken down by platform. It's just 40 million Hearthstone players. Then you jumped to the conclusion that they're mobile players.

        Again, I'm not arguing against mobile exploding. I'm arguing against the quality of the reporting.

      • Eli Hodapp

        Let's just agree that TouchArcade is the worst and get on to more productive things to spend our day on.

      • qdisqust

        I'm trying to help you improve the quality of your work. Isn't that something you want to do? Here's some more data to support the claim that Hearthstone is exploding on mobile:

        In Feb 2015 Hearthstone had 25 million registered players:

        In May it reached 30 million:

        And now they're reporting 40 million. that's an increase of at least 62% in 2015, and based on the chart I referenced from that other TouchArcade article showing an inversion of revenue for Hearthstone away from PC and to mobile, this does support your claim.

        But as a journalist you should be the one doing the research on this stuff, not me.

      • Andrew Fretz

        Sorry your expectation of pedantry was not met.

      • qdisqust

        There was nothing pedantic about it. I am very sensitive to people jumping to conclusions based on facts that don't support them. That's true.

        But in this case the facts existed to support the statement but they didn't spend the time to put them together.

        The world needs watchdogs to make sure that people can be held to account for the things they say and do. I'm just trying to do my part in that effort here. Hopefully Eli read my last reply that provided the supporting evidence for the statement in the article, and hopefully he takes it to heart in the spirit it was intended and does a little more research when he writes future articles. If so, then I've done my part.

        A world without self reflection and criticism produces what we've got of the republican party right now. 🙂

      • Jared Nelson

        Thank you for your unsolicited and unwanted help. The world would be a far too awesome place if there weren't pedantic know it alls butting in with their "Well, actually!" at every turn, so it's nice to see you balancing things out. This is fricking video games for crying out loud, try to loosen up.

      • Modjular

        I read this whole thread, because I do things like that. It's nice that you guys are so involved in the community sometimes. But passive-aggressive quips reflect badly, even when the other guy is an asshole. You guys should treat it more professionally, since it's your living. Or just don't read the comments when it's devolving into a flame war. I think other sites realize this, which is why they have mods and community managers. I know you guys aren't actively going around and looking for conflicts, but when it does happen the interactions always end badly.

      • Eli Hodapp

        Our motto so far in 2016 has been "Don't touch the poop," which is why you see us commenting on stories under our normal usernames far, far less. Mistakes were made in this thread.

      • fabell

        Nothing wrong about being public in your comments. It's much easier to dish out criticism than it is to write these articles and you are bound to say something in the articles that is going to rankle the feathers on at least one person. Just laugh it off if it bothers you too much.

      • Eli Hodapp

        We do, 99.9% of the time. Problem is, that 0.1% seems to reeeaaallllyyyy bother people. 😉

      • Jared Nelson

        This is a very true statement.

      • houseofg

        Completely agree, and in this particular instance, qdiqust was far from being an asshole. He was clearly trying to provide constructive criticism, something that should be welcomed by any professional site, not piled on like this. Every time I see well-meaning users treated like this it makes me rethink my patreon pledge.

      • Eli Hodapp

        If you expect us to be perfect you should probably rescind your pledge, as we're doing the best we can.

      • Jared Nelson

        Please, if you're going to hold a patreon pledge over our heads as something to be relinquished any time we do something you don't agree with, then please just withdraw it. I'd rather eat one less pack of ramen noodles this month than have to put up with that. We want people to support what we do so we can continue doing it, not dictate what we can and cannot do or say based on their own personal belief.

        As far as constructive criticism, I'm curious how you came to that conclusion. Here is an article where Eli found a very interesting interview with a huge developer, pointed people towards the interview and made a comment about his own personal take on things that were said in the interview. For some guy to burst through the wall and "WELL ACTUALLY" that he didn't cite sources for his opinion just like the Kool Aid Man is just some guy desperate to be right on the internet so that he can fellate his own sense of self importance, not someone trying to help us out in any way. I mean, read through his disqus history and see for yourself.

      • Agkelos

        Wow. This is quite a rude comment. A bit of an overreaction, isn't it? If scathing sarcasm can kill, the OP would be a pile of ash by now.

      • boydstr

        Your last quote is to the point but why so serious??

      • qdisqust

        BTW, this article: supports your hypothesis far more than the ones referenced in this article.

    • anon_coward

      unlike traditional console and PC games, mobile games have regular revenue where people pay all the time.

      • qdisqust

        Sure, but that's about a payment model and has nothing to do with mobile vs other platforms. Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm is free to play and then you can either use in game currency to buy new heroes or pay cash, and you can pay cash to buy new skins. I've spent a bunch of money on it. 🙂

  • Adams Immersive

    Touch is perfect for RTS. Design for both long and short sessions, and all bases are covered!

  • Tizz986

    I used to think it was a stretch for me to say something like "blizzard can do no wrong", but at this point they have proven that they have the people and processes to consistently make the best games in any genre.

    I will always be excited for a new blizzard game, and they are the only company that still gets a blind pre-order from me. The buggy disaster that is XCOM2 just reinforces this.

    They can't make a new mobile game fast enough...but then again, that's why they are great.

    • speedyph

      Damn xcom is a buggy mess go figure lol they rushed that game

  • Wizard_Mike

    Not that long ago, Blizzard put together a small team for a little project to test out the mobile gaming market. That little project turned out to be way more successful than anyone had expected. So much more, that they had to shift gears from it being a mere side-project to a long term development plan. It's only natural that Blizzard is looking at the mobile platform more seriously after seeing how well Hearthstone has done. I can't wait to see what they do next!

    • Wizard_Mike

      And yes, I know that Hearthstone is not *only* a mobile game. I think that's one of the greatest aspects of it. The same game that is a major esport and is one of the most streamed games right now is also fully playable on your phone. If they stick with that model, I believe any game they put on mobile will be largely successful. It's not about seeing the mobile market as a separate market, it's about *including* the mobile market in their game development plans.

    • Joshua Woodward

      Your most favorite Blizz game, now on mobile... In 2020!

  • siryami220

    If Blizzard did a mobile Diablo-esque game I'd be very excited.

  • Joshua Woodward

    "I don’t think that people want to sit down and play 45 minute missions any more."

    Thank you Captain Obvious...

    I didn't want to do it at 25, I know I can't do it at 32. Sorry guys l, but there's just too much to do these days, either adapt or lose market share!

    • Eageron

      Playing on iPad Pro really leverages mobile gaming! 🙂 RTS only work on big screens to the fullest!

  • Modjular

    Starcraft Royale. I would delete every other game on my phone.

    • Eageron

      I so agree with you! =)

  • eventide

    I wonder why PS4 sales more than doubled the sale of PS3s? Guess people still want to play on consoles. And mobile is abreast platform to have as a compliment to it.

  • Rawk GWJ

    Yessssssss! I love this.

  • eventide

    Mobile is A GREAT compliment not ABREAST. Calm down auto correct.

  • Alexythimia23

    Haha why ate some readers jumping the gun on this article! Lmao its almost embarrassing that its been taken out of context so ridiculously!
    Some saying why are you throwing fake stastics about and others thinking it will be a clash of clan wow clone lol did you guys read the article, its just a piece about Blizzard just taking an interest in the future of mobile gaming, nothing more and nothing less. Its awesome news, and they are quite clear about wanting a real gaming experience which is why they need to take their time to see what can be created. I can assure you its soon going to come to the pint where even casual gamers are going to want more then a clash of clans, they will evolve, and want more from their gaming. It will become generic and mundane, so i think the dudes at Blizzard recognise there is a great platform for some great gaming that even pc and console players can jump on board with. So anyone trying to pick this apart as another attack of mobile on gaming......simply untie your panties so there not in a bunch anymore lol personally cant wait for the big devs to innovate some more great games for our platform.

  • deano13

    Well we basically have WoW already on platform... There's afew MMORPG about, but the order & chaos 1&2 take the crown when it comes to being like WoW

    • Modjular

      Yeah, I hope their next move isn't just some port of a current game. I think they're smart enough to realize that wouldn't work out. But something using those IP's would be awesome.

  • Mike Walko

    I would love some Diablo or HotS on mobile.

  • boydstr

    They come a long way sins Blackthorne.

  • fabell

    Pearce and Morhaime are probably right - their primary user base probably doesn't want to sit down and play 45-minute missions anymore. Heck, I'm in the demographic and I can barely find 45 minutes of time without an interruption. But when I played the original games like Starcraft, Warcraft, Diablo (20 years ago) 45 minutes was nothing. But one thing that Pearce and Morhaime seem to be disconnected from in their comments is that there are still millions of kids today who are bored and who love gaming, to whom 45 minutes is still nothing. If it's quality they'll still sit down and play for 5 hours straight, regardless of how many other eggs are in the basket.

  • bleeps

    I hope they're considering Diablobile.

  • phonecats

    Starcraft X Clash Royale...
    you choose zerg, terran, protoss.
    zerg has queens pushing creep.
    brainstorm go!