Executive Vice President of Game Design Rob Pardo resigned from Blizzard Entertainment in July 3, 2014. Over two years later in September of 2016, he resurfaced and announced the formation of a new video company called Bonfire Studios.
Despite that fact that 6 years has elapsed since Pardo left Blizzard and 4 years since the inception of Bonfire Studios, no information has been released about their upcoming title.
This is very puzzling when you consider that development began on World of Warcraft — a MMORPG that Rob Pardo conceived and led — in 1999 and two years later in 2001, Blizzard officially announced it to the public. Three years later in November of 2004, World of Warcraft was finally released. From the time of the announcement in 2001 and the release of WoW, it took 3 more development years and 5 years in total.
As of October 2, 2010 and after 4 years since their inception, Bonfire has still not announced their first title. As there is typically a significant delay between announcement and release, it’s therefore reasonable to believe it may be another 2-3 years before their game actually comes to the market.
This lack of information is most unusual considering one of Pardo’s cardinal game design rules is “beware the grand reveal.” I have a feeling whatever video game Bonfire releases, it will not be relying on community feedback with traditional alpha and beta releases.
Did you know they hired a community manager? She’s a video game e-celeb called Morgan Webb. You can read her profile here. What exactly does a community manger do when you still have no video game or a community that has coalesced around that video game? Maybe she organizes office parties, events, and orders crunch food for the staff. Who knows what she really does?
There are other hires with dubious titles at Bonfire. Despite having less then two dozen staff, they’ve already got an HR department. What?!? I suppose $25 million gives one the luxury of some trophy hires. I hope the Rob Pardo and Bonfire HR dept. resists the temptation to start having PRIDE celebrations and the usual vapid diversity and inclusion side shows.
Pro tip: just stick to making awesome video games and dispense with the virtue signaling claptrap
If I was an investor in Bonfire Studios, I would be worried right now. Four years is too long to wait for an announcement from a new video game studio that is fully funded.
Failure of the Titans
Let’s not forget that Rob Pardo doesn’t exactly have a perfect track record in video games. He was the head of the Project Titan 100+ strong team at Blizzard. Project Titan was a spectacular failure that was cancelled by Blizzard after squandering $50 million. Not only that, Blizzard incurred a colossal opportunity cost and wasted years of development time. Rob loves to give speeches about game development and somehow he never mentions his part of the massive debacle that was Titan.
I think Rob Pardo owes a thorough and honest post-mortem to the video game world about what happened to Titan. Failure is a great teacher.
It’s only human to promote your victories and downplay your defeats. There’s an old saying:
Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan.
You see, with the ambitious Project Titan, there was no niche video game like EverQuest that Blizzard could steal ideas from, innovate, and create a video game with mass market appeal. Project Titan exposed Blizzard’s incompetence, hubris, lack of originality, and dearth of creativity for all to see. Some of the top names of the industry like Mike Morhaime, Alex Afrasiabi, Jeffery Kaplan, Chris Metzen, and even Time Magazine 100 Most Influential Person of 2006 Rob Pardo could not put Humpty Dumpty together again.
The ill-fated Titan was a massive blow to Blizzard’s hagiography and mythical status in the industry. Even worse, the failure of Titan permanently wounded the hyperbolic confidence of Blizzard and has since turned them into just another run of the mill, woke California video game studio populated with a carnival of pink coiffed lesbians and diversity hires.
I don’t blame Rob Pardo for leaving Blizzard. I am very sympathetic to him as he got ambushed at MIT by a scheming radical gay activist and after that debacle, Blizzard let him twist in the wind with no support.
With Bonfire Studios he can finally make video games his way, without interference from woke executives like Mike Morhaime and money grubbing fiends like Bobby Kotick.
It is refreshing that Pardo and Bonfire are making video games via an egalitarian process and have embraced the Hearthstone small team ethos and see the value in using existing video game engines like Unity. Blizzard used to use a similar democratic process to select their video game projects before they sold out, lost their culture and embraced the cancer of corporatism.
There are 3 main reasons I can think of as being responsible for the delay in announcing their first video game title:
- The game isn’t fun and maybe they are going back to the drawing board to create a new game.
- The game isn’t as fun as it could be and they are falling back on the old Blizzard adage of: “we will only release it when it’s ready.”
- The Chinese Coronavirus happened.
Of course, if Bonfire was to make an announcement, it would start the clock ticking. Sometimes deadlines can create a sense of urgency that helps to speed up production. Consider that Blizzard announced WoW in 2001 and had 3 more years to deliver which is actually a long time. Announcements create a lot of hype and buzz. They also bring a lot of good will and if the video game looks promising, the community will organically emerge, and Morgan will finally have something legitimate to manage.
Build it and they will come.
Clearly, Bonfire Studios has recruited an amazing team of talented developers. However, supergroups in the music business rarely ever work out. I hope that Rob Pardo’s team is successful and creates a video game intellectual property that will live up to the expectations of both investors and old Blizzard fans that feel abandoned by woke Blizzard 2.0.
But hope is not a strategy. As a MMORPG gamer, I’ve stopped hoping and pretty much given up on the genre and various Kickstarter scams that promise the world but never deliver.
It sounds like Rob has put the time and thought into created a rare studio culture that nurtures his team which will in turn create something unique.
Even some kind of announcement about a forthcoming announcement would be helpful. It’s been 6 years since you left Blizzard Rob, I think it’s time to make an announcement. Or at least let us know why you haven’t made an announcement.
So, where’s the beef Rob?
There are not even rumors. I even forgot that he created a studio.
Ex-Blizzard, even if he was one of the leaders, isn’t a guarantee for success. Sometimes it is a lucky and rare combination of personalities and talent that go well together but would not work alone or with others.
Steve Jobs + Wozniak or Gates + Ballmer come to mind, for game design it might be even more complicated. I often have the impression some people are resting on the laurels their teams created for them, with their role, importance and impact forever being highly overrated. I am not talking about Pardo, I had some other very famous designers in mind. They are usually giving speeches with their success games being almost extinct from the memories of the last two decades.
Blizzard and Bioware are not the same companies that people adored anymore. Naughty Dog jumped fully on the woke bandwagon.
I hope he can deliver something good or that young designers go with the gameplay first idea he spoke about often, and not a narrative driven game (nothing wrong with that per se) that is seeking to educate me to certain political ideals and ideas of the makers (nope) overly much.