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New Section on Blizzard's Jobs Page: Unannounced Game Title. Titan's Return?

Sep 14 2013 07:17 PM | mynsc in News


A new jobs section has recently appeared on Blizzard's website and it's teasingly called Unannounced Game Title. It currently holds 6 job entries, 5 of them for various visual artist positions. This comes just a bit over one month after the Next Gen MMO section was completely removed, probably due to the Titan reset that was announced in May. Here are a few fragments from the freshly added job postings:

3D Character Animator

The ideal candidate has experience modeling and texturing character assets in a stylized universe. A solid grasp of form, color, and light for both 2D and 3D art assets is essential. The 3D character artist must also have experience working with a diverse range of characters, creatures, weapons, and equipment both organic and mechanical in nature.


Lead Server Programmer

This individual will lead the development of server architecture and implementation of an exciting new Blizzard game and will lead a group of programmers to accomplish various server programming tasks.


Senior VFX Artist

The ideal candidate has extensive experience working with 3D packages, in-game FX systems to create a wide range of VFX (fire, smoke, explosions, etc.), as well as a general understanding of good game play communication.

As is usual the case with such black box observations, this new development raises more questions than it answers.
Is this new section referring to Titan? The title fits, because Blizzard has made it a point recently to note that the game was never officially announced. This would mean that the project is back on track, but the way the title has been reworded might also suggest that it suffered drastic changes. Is it still an MMO? Is this new "Titan" maybe just using assets and tech but going in a whole different direction gameplay wise?
What if it's not Project Titan at all? It's definitely not HS (already announced), All-Stars (shares a section with SC2 on the jobs page) or any of their other 3 big franchises. So does this mean Blizzard is engaged in a new major project? And where does that leave Titan?
There are no certainties, except that Blizzard is indeed cooking something new, whether it's Titan, a derivative of Titan or something completely unknown.
What do you think?

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Titan: "Unlikely to be a Subscription Based MMORPG"

Aug 01 2013 11:24 PM | mynsc in News

08.08.2013 - Jobs Update: The "Next-Gen MMO" section on Blizzard's Jobs Directory page is now gone.



Speaking to share-holders at Activision Blizzard's Q2 2013 Results Conference Call, Mike Morhaime, the CEO of Blizzard Entertainment, had a few words especially reserved for Project Titan.

Mike Morhaime

We're in the process of selecting a new direction for Project Titan and re-envisioning what we want the game to be. And while we can't talk about the details yet, it is unlikely to be a subscription based MMORPG.
I also want to reiterate that there has been not been an official announced or projected release date. What I can say is that the commitment to quality has always been at the core of Blizzard values and we've gone through this type of iterative development process several times in the past on our way to creating genre-defining games.
As we continue our assessment, we have shifted some of the resources from the team to our other franchises including WoW and Blizzard All-Stars which we believe will add immense value to those projects.

Not a very clear statement, especially since it was pre-written. Will it be a subscription-less MMORPG, or will it also be a different type of game all-together? Unless I'm missing something, the way he worded the phrase leaves room for debate.
Even with the ambiguity of the statement, this does help clear a bit the exact reason(s) for the recent reset. We had already considered that it was a pause designed to give them time to look into different business models (like F2P) and / or different game-play options, and Mike Morhaime's short speech definitely adds strength to these two options.

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Vivendi vs ActiBlizz Series Continues. Latest episode: The Cash Grab. Any Effect on Titan?

Jul 24 2013 06:25 PM | mynsc in Blizzard


The Facts

Update: Looks like in the end, Activision Blizzard managed to avoid the special dividend Vivendi had planned to issue and bought itself back from the holding giant[PDF], becoming an independent company. They did not avoid debt however, as this self-purchase was founded with $1.2 billion cash on hand and $4.6 billion debt proceeds. As mentioned below though, they still have at least $3 billion cash in their coffers, that they chose not to use for this transaction. So in the end, most of the below conclusions do stand, from a financial point of view at least, although being a "free" company is definitely a big win for the gaming giant and something that's well worth the huge investment. 
Vivendi, a humongous holding company (which basically means it produces nothing, just owns and manages shares of other companies), has reached the conclusion that having $17.3 billion in debt is not a very good thing. They're in danger of having their credit rating downgraded, their stock keeps going down and are exposed to other nasty stuff that can result from such a high debt. So they're doing their best to reduce it. They call it slimming down and focusing on their media portfolio. As a result, any company that does not fit this title is being traded off. 
They're already mostly done with selling their 53% stake in Maroco Telecom for $5.5 billion and it's rumored that the next step is doing the same with the shares of SFR, a telecom giant just as big, with the difference that Vivendi fully owns it. As we found out about a year ago, Activision Blizzard was also put on sale. Unfortunately for them, and apparently for the gaming giant as well, nobody was interested enough to pay the required price. So they're switching to plan B, namely siphoning the funds from ActiBlizz through a special dividend.
When the pair went under Vivendi's hold, they had a deal in place preventing the parent company of doing such special cash requests without the approval of the other board members. The deal has expired just this month, and since Vivendi holds 63% of the controlling shares, they now have the power to do such a cash grab. And they definitely are not shy about it, with things apparently being in motion already.
Word is they've settled on a $3 billion dividend, which would give Vivendi $2 billion in cash, considering they hold about 2/3 of the stock. Activision Blizzard has that and more saved up, $4.6 billion to be more precise. The problem is that only about $1.6 billion of that sum is inside the US, the rest being neatly deposited in various off-shore accounts. This means that they can't use those money unless they want them introduced into the US system, which would mean certain tax obligations that they've been trying to avoid. So to pay a $3 billion dividend, they will probably opt to borrow at least $1.4 billion, hence giving the company something that it has done its best to avoid until now: debt.
How Will it Affect the Company and Implicitly Project Titan?
I think there are two main factors to consider here.
First of all, things are not as dire as we might think, as I see it anyway. All companies pay such dividends at some point in time and with the amount of cash saved up, you could say that ActiBlizz is in a decent spot to do such a thing. They might've hoped to be able to use these savings + debt to buy themselves back from under Vivendi, but I guess that and other plans will have to be put on hold.
Also, as it's obvious from comparing the numbers, the debt is in a way "fake", because all in all they have more money saved up than what they need to pay to their share-holders, just that it's distributed in other regions than US.
Also worth considering is that this was reserve money. Cash saved up for such special events, like paying dividends, buying something or extremely "rainy days". Losing a chunk of this shouldn't affect day-today operations or mid-term plans, not right now at least.
And this leads me to the second factor. I think the question "how will this affect Titan?" is at the wrong verb time. It should be "How has this affected Titan?" since I'm sure this move from Vivendi was not a surprise for the ActiBlizz management. They knew when the deal that was protecting them would expire, they knew of Vivendi's intent to get rid of its debt for at least a few years, so they had plenty of time to prepare. Sure, they probably also tried to avoid it (mainly through a buy-back), but at the same time if they had any "adjustments" to implement they probably already put them in place.
I'm definitely not saying that Titan's "reset" was Blizzard getting the memo from above, but if something like that would happen, it probably already did.
The Bottom Line
I think that if things continue to go well for the gaming giant, this move from Vivendi will have no impact whatsoever on any of its current and future projects, including Titan. The main change is that the company is now a bit more exposed. A streak of weaker than expected launches or a problem in the market could place them in trouble faster than before. So investing in new franchises should still be on top of their priority list, especially since they need to reflect confidence and potential after taking this hit (and dealing with a shrinking WoW), just that they'll need to be a bit more careful to not screw up.
And looking just at Blizzard, they might be a bit more exposed than Activision just because of the way they "cook" their games. If things go bad in the future, financially speaking, Blizzard will have to make some drastic changes to its process, with the expected result of streamlining it and eliminating the so called "iterations" that throw back the planned release dates by years. :) 

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