Warcraft 3: Reforged was a highly anticipated remake of Blizzard’s classic RTS. Fans were promised upgraded graphics, and new voice-overs and cut-scenes that would align the game with World of Warcraft's more extensive lore. A modern version that kept their classic game so close to its heart that previous mods would work with it. What was released missed so many of those promised additions, and even cut some of the title’s original elements, that Blizzard were compelled to offer up refunds.
According to a report by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, “Mismanagement and financial pressures” were the reasons behind the botched remake. Tension between Blizzard’s vision and Activision’s backing left the project neither a remaster nor a remake, and the results were embarrassing.
Bloomberg’s report alleges that Classic Games, the internal studio who began the project, had started work on Reforged’s new voice-overs in 2017. As development progresssed, the relatively small team realised their grand promises were going to be tough to deliver with their current size and budget. According to Schreier: “Remastering Warcraft III was more complicated than their previous remake, StarCraft, thanks to its three-dimensional models. The team was small, the production was disorganized and the amount of work in front of them was daunting. It had taken months to revamp one of Warcraft III’s levels; now they would have to do the same for dozens more.”
With Activision focussing on larger titles, such as Overwatch 2, and laying off 800 of its workforce in 2019, Classic Games would never receive the full support required to recapture Warcraft 3. Nevertheless, they plowed on, and even started taking pre-orders for the game. That left the team committed to releasing the title. A Blizzard spokesman told Bloomberg: “In hindsight, we should have taken more time to get it right, even if it meant returning pre-orders.”
Despite getting help from other Blizzard departments during the final development push, it was too late. The game was so poorly received that demands for refunds were upheld. Even now, 18 months on, the game is missing much of the promised content that it was sold on.
Just about the only positive in all this is that it has meant that Activision Blizzard are taking a more careful approach with the upcoming Diablo 2: Resurrected. They’re aiming for a “pure remaster” of the title, which is being handled by some of the Diablo 4 team and Vicarious Visions. Classic Games have since been disbanded.
This is the second report this week to shed a poor light on Activision Blizzard. Just yesterday, the State of California filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging it's has a workplace culture that's "a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women". Blizzard have denied these allegations.