Blizzard the gated-community

So we took a trip to California from Rhode Island recently…myself, my wife, and our 3 broodlings. My best friend resides in Los Angeles with his wife and their son, so we spent 10 days visiting them and touring a bit of So Cal. We went to Santa Monica Pier, Disneyland, Hollywood, Grumman’s Chinese Theater, etc. Now my daughter has played a bit of WoW, and more recently has begun playing Warcraft 3. My oldest son has been playing Starcraft (original) and enjoying it. My wife is still a fan of Warcraft II. Needless to say we are a Blizzard household as much as a Honda, Apple, and Nikon one (enjoying and owning many of their products).

So, a trip to the Blizzard studios was on the menu. After all, they have a huge statue outside their main offices in Irvine, as well as others on display in the front lobby and of course the small Blizzard museum. Now, if you worked there, for the first few days you’d stop and look at such things, but like all work places, you would eventually just walk past them and not even notice them any longer. It wears on you and becomes background noise and just part of the scenery. That’s natural.

So, Blizzard…I ask you….WHO ARE THESE THINGS FOR?!?!

Well, its certainly NOT for your 12 million players of World of Warcraft. Why is that you ask? Because, Blizzard is a closed campus and not open to the public. Bad form Blizzard…BAD FORM. The notion that public traffic or tours would be a disruption to the flow of work is completely understandable…but it would not and IS NOT difficult to have a small public area for the viewing of the museum and other collectibles that you have. Make the courtyard public access with a small reception area and timed/tours of the museum. Its not hard, many companies do it. Then have your work space open solely to those with badge access.

My financial services firm does this, and no one cares to visit us; but someone was smart enough to set up facilities specific to public affairs and community outreach.

Blizzard, you owe your success to the players of your game. That statue out front is not for you…its for us. It’s a trophy you should be showing off! When Da Vinci, Cezzane, Picasso, Monet, and Manet  painted it was not to hang the art in their living room….it was to show to the world. Yes, you show your work to the gaming community through your games and Blizzcon, but you can do more.

It was telling to my wife that your “campus” was the only set of office buildings behind a 10 foot high black iron fence. You are not a Nuclear facility or a warehouse of military secrets. You are a game developer.

Blizz, you sent a very bad message to my 2 older children that you are not open and inviting. It left a bad taste in their mouths (and mine). No, I do not expect you to be Disneyland and have a huge theme park…but a small exhibition area would go a long way to showing you are an accessible and open company dedicated to your fans and patrons. Don’t be xenophobic introverts. Bear in mind I am calling for a small open access area for visitors….not opening all of your facilities to everyone, that would be unwise and counter-productive for those trying to work.

In short and in my humble opinion, you need some work on your “public affairs”.

Additionally, a note on what this meant to me as a potential associate. I have considering applying to Blizz for years, and my wife has been pushing me to do so for longer. I have a passion for your IPs and could potentially fill various roles in your firm. Would it have been a bad thing for someone to have spoken to me and been able to ask questions? Again a simple public affairs person could have had a face to face dialogue about what it means to work at Blizzard and live within the area. Being open and personable would have been the right approach. Even the receptionist never looked up from her computer screen for more than a moment, and there was no one else in the lobby and no phones were ringing. Just simply making eye contact would have been a huge step forward. In your defense, the security rep was very nice and must have quickly assessed that we were unaware that the campus was not open to the public and that we should not have been there. He understood our position and apologized that he had no alternative to offer us beyond “please exit the premises”. I will not give his name, but rest assured he has my gratitude for being pleasant and understanding. When someone flies across the entire country and makes time to visit you specifically, it should mean something to you about the level of dedication and interest they have. I understand the issue of someone being an over-zealous and crazed fan, and the difficulties therein of dealing with such people….but you cannot tell me they are the majority. They have always been the fringe case scenarios and always will be.

If I had been that receptionist or security and was told, “Oh, we came from New England to visit friends and wanted to be sure to stop by here” I would have said, “Really? Wow. That’s quite a trip to just come here. Let me see if we can make it worth your time then. I can’t offer a lot, but I am hoping something is better than nothing.” As the visitor, I would have appreciated that effort more so than anything else, and while not a “perfect” scenario it would have been far more palatable than the simple “Sorry, you have to leave”

Blizzard, I make an open challenge to you…BE ACCESSIBLE TO YOUR PATRONS AND TALENT POOL. Blizzcon is a nice thing, but lets be honest I can’t bring my entire family to that. The Developer dinner is nice, but at 200 tickets per the pool of potential talent at your disposal makes for a lousy ratio. I want my children to experience a company who takes the time to show they care about them (Disney as an example does this to perfection). I want a potential employer to know more about me than a digital resume and application. If I am considering moving my family of 5 across the country and leaving my position of 10 years with my current firm; I want to do more than simply make a blind application to you via the web. Don’t rest on your laurels Blizz…“Towanda….gotta do more, gotta be more!”

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4 thoughts on “Blizzard the gated-community

  1. Norm says:

    That’s disappointing that you didn’t get a chance to look around at Blizz. I hope the rest of your vacation was enjoyable, at least! I think there’s a few things you’ve overlooking, though.

    Blizzard’s news is BIG business – people obsessively look for information about Blizzard’s upcoming releases and proprietary information. Letting people near the corporate office is asking for security breaches. There is obsessive news coverage of ANYTHING that could be considered a “leak”, and tons of money rides on keeping things confidential.

    It’s their stuff, and from what I hear, the people who work at Blizz do enjoy it. After all, they’re typically fans first and employees second. The Googleplex is built on customer revenue but it’s still there for employees (who hopefully also do their job better because they’re creative and inspired.) Most of the art you listed was created exactly to hang on a wall – most art has historically been made for patrons or personal enjoyment, not public museums. I mean, the Last Supper was painted on the wall of a rich guy’s private mausoleum.

    Blizzard is way way tinier than Disney. By a factor of thousands. Disney has 150,000 employees, Blizzard probably has a thousand or so in Irvine and most of them are CSRs. Does Disney let guests walk around their corporate office/have a museum on the Studio? I don’t see one listed on the Disney Studios page – I don’t even see a non-controlled parking lot. Disney has an open office HR policy?

    Blizzard has obsessive fans. You acknowledge that, but not that Blizz has no idea what someone who could be dangerous/annoying/create a legal nightmare looks like. The kind of person who goes to a corporate office (which is listed as a closed campus on their website faq) is maybe a harmless big fan, like your family, or maybe not – where do you draw the line between “willing to drive across the country to go to Blizzard” and “overzealous”? They could be someone who would steal trash, sneak in a telephoto lens, or even threaten the employees. They could be a competitor. Or they could be someone completely harmless who overhears the wrong thing and posts it on the internet. Right now, you have to sign an NDA to even get a tour at Blizz. Why expose themselves to that kind of risk?

    Blizzard gets, I would guess, thousands of resumes a month. Most of them are from the insanely unqualified. Even my company, which is not large or exciting in the least, doesn’t typically answer HR questions from walk-in applicants without an appointment. Don’t call us, we’ll call you is standard. (If annoying.) If word got out that you could talk to HR at Blizzard, their poor HR person would do nothing but stand in the lobby battling fanboys with second rate CS degrees all day.

    I think you’d be surprised at the expense/annoyance/sheer number of people that would show up to their offices if it were encouraged.

    • I do not disagree with the majority of what you are stating. In fact I am fully aware of the difficulties much of it would bring about. What I am saying is that Blizzard is not the first to deal with these issues and could easily learn a bit from others examples.

      Again, I don’t expect them to be Disney but they could take a page or two from them. Theme park? hardly…small open access lobby, easily done. Security is not hard for such a thing.

      As for the Blizzard “secrets” and risks? They have more to fear from employees leaking confidential material than from someone “breaking in” to steal something. Again, I work for a financial services company, the very notion of gathering info that could be used for insider trading is the number one largest security concern here. The concern is in associates bringing it OUT, not people extracting it from outside. Badge access security to various areas of our buildings while also allowing a small area for public access is handled simply and easily.

      And to the point of employment…while yes I am sure they get many a dead-end application, a face to face conversation has ALWAYS been a far better gauge of potential talent, than a piece of paper ever has been. Do they have the time for everyone that walks in the door, certainly not.

      Blizzard could do more than they currently do. I challenge them to do so. They can come up with the parameters and design of such a thing, maybe they’ve thought of it but discounted it. I don’t know. But I for one was disappointed…but more importantly: my 10 and 8 yr old were more so. They took notice of it. They felt slighted. Will it mean they will hate Blizz and never play their IPs? I doubt it…but it did nothing to endear Blizzard in their eyes. More than anything else…people, CONSUMERS, like to feel special. They like to be treated as if they matter to the company they are purchasing from. That experience made no one feel appreciated or special in any way.

      Long reply yes…but its a good topic that I think begs for a good discussion. Thank you for your thoughts!!!

  2. andrewmy says:

    Disappointing to hear, but not surprising. There is a definite culture difference between a small games developer and a large corporation and Blizzard has rapidly grown closer to the latter. More rules, more corporate policies, more approvals, etc. leaving very little for the employees to exercise their own judgement. To be sure nothing untoward happens that could result in adverse effects (real or imagined), they have blanket rules i.e. “No visitors”

    You would be surprised just how petty some of the rules and policies can be just to be sure there is always a “company-approved” procedure to deal with things. Still, I would have thought the receptionist could have been friendlier – guess they need some sort of company-approved service quality program…

  3. Dante says:

    I believe that Blizzard has forgotten who is the most important person is in their world, and that is the customer. Yes, sure, many resumes, and people wanting to find out what is the next new thing, BUT, they could make it a warm and welcoming place. They make enough money to create a “Blizzard Experience” area. Why not have an area that is for customers, not just a small museum. The customers are the ones that put YOU on the map Blizzard, and as you have said, not everyone can make it to Blizcon even IF they could get tickets. They should be valuing LOYAL/longterm users of their products, not just the close at hand ones.

    As for the statues you mentioned, they were just erected because of the company’s bias for the Horde, and not for customers at all.

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