Adham has something he says. You don’t want to be the first person to do a thing. You want to be the second. I don’t know that we’re going to be the second on any of those things, but that’s his philosophy on that type of stuff, and I tend to agree with him.
GamesBeat: On something like battle royale, what kind of discussion have you had about that?
Brack: Battle royale is cool. I’ve played a healthy amount of Fortnite. We have people who play loads and loads of PUBG. The new Call of Duty came out with Blackout mode that a lot of people are playing. Honestly I think it’s good. Whenever a new genre or a new kind of gaming experience comes out, it’s great for the industry. It helps the industry grow and innovate. What I want to do as a game creator is make cool stuff, and as a game player I want to play cool stuff. The more stuff that’s being made, we see that as a positive for us and for the industry. In the case of Fortnite, or any kind of genre-defining game like that, something that’s clearly growing the industry, that’s great for everyone.
GamesBeat: How are you guys sending a message out to the fans at Blizzcon?
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Brack: Blizzcon is a huge event for us. We’re super focused on that right now, spending a lot of time making sure everything is going well. The teams are out setting up machines and making sure that when the doors open on Friday morning, everyone has a great experience. We’re iterating on all of our announcements, everything we’ll talk about.
We think about Blizzcon as the physical manifestation of the Blizzard community. We treat it very seriously and very passionately. It’s an awesome thing, a lot of opportunity for us to connect with players and for us to experience the positivity that comes with the games that we’ve been fortunate to create.
The amount of love and energy that’s at Blizzcon is frankly like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I come away from Blizzcon exceptionally excited every time we do it. People are so excited, so happy, so complimentary, so generous with their time and with the love that they have for everything we’re doing. For just about every Blizzard employee, it’s a ton of work, but it’s one of the most rewarding things we do.
GamesBeat: Do you have to go out there and say, “Hey, I’m not Mike, but you don’t have to worry, Blizzard is still Blizzard”?
Brack: I do. [Laughs] Just like that actually. It’s a tall order. Mike is such a good human. He’s a legend. He’s sort of transcended, in the game industry, what it means to be a normal CEO. It’s a huge honor and hugely humbling to follow in his footsteps.
GamesBeat: How do you feel about some of the industry-wide things you’re involved in, like the Fair Play Alliance?
Brack: One of the things that we’ve done over the years is partner with different groups and different charities to take on different things we believe in. I think I’m going to look at Rob and talk very slowly, but I believe we already announced the amount of dollars we did for the Overwatch breast cancer charity? That was a huge amount of money that the community raised in support of that with the Mercy skin and Mercy merchandise. The charity aspect is a big part of what we’ve previously announced at BlizzCon. There will be another announcement there as well.
As far as the Fair Play Alliance, we have a panel at BlizzCon this weekend — “Play Nice, Play Fair” — and that will go into a bit more detail around specifically what Blizzard is trying to do in that area.
GamesBeat: Do you have to help decide which characters to nerf in Overwatch?
Brack: [Laughs] That is not part of my mandate. I certainly have opinions. But I’ll leave that to the data scientists and the game designers and the game directors to ultimately make the right decisions. Overall I’m very comfortable with that. I was partnered with Jeff Kaplan back when he worked on Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, and then Tom Chilton for many expansions. Learning how to have a player opinion, and then a game developer opinion, that’s an important skill for anyone who works on games. How to understand your own view versus the — when you’re speaking as a player and when you’re speaking as a developer.
GamesBeat: How are you tapping people like Allen Adham and Mike Morhaime as far as advice going forward?
Brack: Allen, I’ve been lucky enough to work relatively closely with him since he returned back in 2016. He’s currently in charge of several new titles that he’s working on and has dedicated teams working on making those games great.
One of the first things I did in my new job was say, “I really want to emphasize the product-level expertise at the leadership level.” Promoting Ray Gresko to chief development officer and then adding Allen to the core leadership team, that was one of the first things I did. Mike is going to be an ongoing advisor. He’ll be with us for an indeterminate amount of time, but I think a long time, helping shepherd the company and make sure the right things happen.
GamesBeat: We haven’t talked too much about games yet. Do you have any favorites right now? Blizzard and otherwise.
Brack: The thing I’m probably most excited about — at Blizzcon we have all the Blizzard games doing all their announcements. I’m fortunate to get to do at least one announcement during BlizzCon, which is very cool. I love all the Blizzard games equally. I love all my children equally. [laughs] Even though I worked on WoW for a very, very long time, I’ve been a player of all Blizzard games past and present.
Like I mentioned, the game that came out this week is Red Dead and I’m excited about that. That’s probably the next game on my plate. I just got little bit in, and then I started the ramp-up for BlizzCon and everything that needs to happen, everything with the transition. It’s been a busy month or so. I’m in week three or week four, whatever week it is? There’s a lot to learn, a lot to catch up on.
GamesBeat: Have you had to make any big calls so far? “The buck stops here” kind of decisions?
Brack: The biggest one, honestly, is what we wanted the leadership team to look like. Deciding that Ray was going to be the right person to run development, and that I really wanted Allen’s voice as part of our leadership going forward, that was probably the first big decision, but also one of the most important.
I really think that if you have the right people in the right positions, and then you have leadership alignment, you solve so many problems about how to move things forward. One of the things I over-index on is leadership alignment. I spend a lot of time over-communicating and over-talking around what our goals are and what we’re trying to do to make sure we’re all moving in the same direction.
Moving Ray into his new position, and then me coming into my new position, the next thing was — we both had jobs before. I was the executive producer for World of Warcraft and Ray was the executive producer for Overwatch. Who should have those jobs? But those are both relatively easy. We have successors ready for those jobs now. That was the next decision, but it was a lot easier.
GamesBeat: You have to keep on grooming people the way Mike did.
Brack: It’s super important, right? Your eyes are always bigger than your stomach, going back to the things you want to do and the things you can do. There are a lot of great ideas at Blizzard. The amount of talent we have to execute on those ideas, that’s always going to be the limiting factor. Thinking about how to train leaders, the next generation of leaders, the next next generation, and so on, that allows you to do more things in the future.
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