For most people, this is pretty insignificant news, though its implications dig pretty deep. I mean, how could it not? This is Blizzard we’re talking about here. Bashiok, aka Micah Whipple, has been a longstanding community manager for Blizzard, formerly as Drysc for World of Warcraft before moving over to Diablo III and changing his handle. It made sense for Blizzard. Diablo III was their big release for 2012 (and possibly for the foreseeable future), so why not move over one of the big names from World Of Warcraft‘s award-winning community management team to oversee the new release?
Just yesterday, however, it became official that Bashiok has moved back to World of Warcraft. It’s been noted that he’s left Diablo III since the Mists of Panderia launch, but now it’s official. But now everyone is kind of wondering why.
The prevailing theory is that he lost his handle on the Diablo III side of things. Some people say he started out bad and got better and others will say he kind of middling all the way (or consistently great), but most agree that he had some unfortunate encounters with the community. Perhaps it’s telling that one of the top Google autocomplete suggestions for “Diablo 3 Bashiok” is “fired.”
Then, in an attempt to offer an olive branch, he would reveal little nuggets of information to fans. Nothing too major, but enough for Blizzard to say that enough’s enough and move him back to a stale property with nothing to break in terms of juicy news. I guess it also didn’t hurt that he’s familiar with how World of Warcraft communities need to be managed.
The other theory is that Blizzard recognizes that Diablo III has been kind of a failure. Well, not a failure in the absolute sense that it bombed and it’s terrible but a failure relative to Blizzard standards and the expectations everyone had for the game. Talking with some industry friends, the consensus seems to be that Diablo III is a great game but kind of a hollow experience, lacking the chutzpah of Diablo II. And with patches either breaking things, only marginally improving things, or being imperceptibly catalytic, things weren’t looking up without something like a straight-up expansion. So then the logic follows (according to the Internet, anyways, so take that as you will) that save any community resources you’ve got like Bashiok, move them to where they can be effective, and throw up support tickets in their wake until that fix happens.
Then again, who knows? This is all Internet conjecture, which is generally the worst kind of conjecture. It’s nearly always unfounded, uninformed, and, above all, slightly tin-foil-hat paranoid. Either way, this is actually some pretty big news, especially in the wake of the recently scrapped Team Deathmatch update for Diablo III. Some are assuming Bashiok’s move is an indicator that game director Jay Wilson will similarly be moved away from the continued updating and maintenance of the game, what with some interpreting his PvP blog post as somewhat of a slap in the face, contrarian to June 2012 AMA and thus most expectations.
Anyways, carry on with whatever your feelings are on Diablo III!