What’s Blizzard’s secret? Why is Diablo III selling so well?
There are a lot of fans of the Diablo series out there … The response has really exceeded our expectations.
How involved were you on the creative end?
I was involved in the initial discussions on whether we should even make the game. I played a lot of it prior to release and provided feedback, but I really want to give credit to the team.
So there was a point when the record-breaking game might not even have gotten made?
We had to build off a small corps of developers. At that time, World of Warcraft was really taking off. So we had to make some decisions about whether we could provide the proper attention to the Diablo franchise.
What’s your favorite part of the franchise?
I really love the combat in Diablo. You have to work to stay alive. I like the twitch-based action–and of course, playing with my friends.
What’s your favorite Blizzard game to play?
Don’t make me do that! I like all of them for different reasons! Diablo just came out, so these days I’m spending a lot of my time playing that.
In that case, what’s your race in Starcraft?
I’m a terran [a humanoid]. And a Night Elf Hunter [what it sounds like] in World of Warcraft.
What game do you spend the most time on?
I probably spend more time on Starcraft. I’m really competitive.
A lot of people think the games industry is going to boil down to mobile, small-scale distractions: Angry Birds, and the like. What do you think?
I definitely think there are a lot of great mobile gaming devices. The iPhone and iPad will continue to gain in popularity. For us it’s more about the user interface. Keyboard and mouse still make for great input devices for games.
And how important is plotting and drama? What do you think of immersive, story-driven games like L.A. Noire, or the Mass Effect and Bioshock series?
It probably depends more on the game. One of our core values at Blizzard is “gameplay first”: we think the story and plot elements are there to serve the gameplay. When you look at Diablo III, the star of the experience is the gameplay: running around, leveling up your character, fighting monsters, etc.
People say Blizzard games are addictive—more so than average. What do you think?
We prefer “compelling.”
Where does your cult following come from?
Over the years, people that have played our previous games grow to appreciate the level of detail and polish that Blizzard puts into its products. We’ve been able to build up this loyal base of players. You never know what’s going to happen.
What’s your favorite non-Blizzard videogame?
Probably Guitar Hero.
You’ve played a lot of professional poker in the past. Thinking of doing that again?
I first got into it when they were showing poker on the Travel Channel. I started reading books about poker strategy, and a few years ago, I started going out to Vegas and entering smaller “World Series of Poker” events. In one of the early ones, it came down to me and Ray Muzyka, CEO of BioWare [the creators of Mass Effect]. We were head-to-head for 45 minutes … Then he finally won.
Do you want a rematch?
I’d love a rematch. But he’s a good player. He won some big event in Canada. He got a ring from it.
Are you in any upcoming tournaments?
I’m going out to Vegas in a few weeks.
Do you still play in a metal band?
Yeah, Blizzard has a band. We’re called Level 90: Elite Tauran Chieftain. We’ve played a few BlizzCons [Blizzard’s annual conference]. We got to open for the Offspring at the very first Blizzcon. Then we got to open for Ozzy Ozbourne and the Foo Fighters. We play all original songs that are inspired by our games.
You can go on YouTube and watch our videos. Check out “I Am Murloc.” If we have one hit song, that’s probably it.
What else are you up to, other than gaming and metal?
What do I do other than Diablo III, SC, watching eSports … Well, I’m going through the Rosetta Stone Chinese.
What are your feelings on the state of the videogame industry writ large?
It’s a really exciting time to be a gamer. I think that the potential on mobile devices is really great—to be able to game from wherever you are. From our perspective, as much as you hear about the PC being a questionable gaming platform, we’re sticking with it. The PC is still a viable platform. We’re seeing levels of engagement on the PC that have never existed for us before.