It's hard to believe I've been playing their games for nearly two-thirds of my life. The little company that could, that started out in February 1991 as Silicon & Synapse, is celebrating two decades of excellence in the video game industry this month.
The company was founded by three college graduates: Michael Morhaime, Frank Pearce and Allen Adham. The trio initially worked on ports of other titles, not releasing a game of their own until 1992's "The Lost Vikings." They followed that up with "Rock 'N Roll Racing," "Blackthorne" and a foray into comic books with "The Death and Return of Superman," among other games.
Then in 1994 everything changed. Not just for their company -- its name changing to Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. -- but for the PC gaming industry as well. Warcraft was finally here. While Westwood Studios was focused on fictional military combat in more of a sci-fi setting, Blizzard went the way of fantasy, engrossing PC gamers in an epic confrontation between the Orcish Horde of Draenor and the Alliance of Azeroth.
Blizzard's first game had nothing to do with Thrall, Kerrigan or Deckard.
In 1997, Blizzard took their games online in grand fashion by releasing the first Battle.net. For the first time ever, you could easily play Blizzard games with anyone, anywhere in the world. Diablo set the stage, quickly followed by StarCraft. Ultimately, Warcraft III ushered in an age of user-generated maps for realtime strategy games that has yet to be surpassed, though StarCraft II is making strides toward doing so.
It's hard to say what Blizzard's greatest accomplishment to this point is. Sure, World of Warcraft has done something no one ever imagined would happen. But every experience Blizzard has created thus far has been equally memorable. If anything, Blizzard's greatest accomplishment is not any single game -- it's the atmosphere they've created at their design studios that affords the luxuries of making games they love, and being willing to abandon something if they don't think it "works."
It's those canceled games that echo the sentiments best. Warcraft Adventures, StarCraft: Ghost, and even "NOMAD" may have been great concepts. But they weren't the concepts that Blizzard wanted to focus on. And so they were either out-right scrapped, or put on hold. The latter gave birth to World of Warcraft, which is exactly why I stress that a single game is not their greatest accomplishment. It's their design philosophies and willingness to accept that their first idea is not always the one that will resonate with gamers.
Yes, Blizzard even made a Superman game.
In my recent visit to the Twisted Nether Blogcast, I was asked what I would like from Blizzard, if I could have anything. My response was pretty easy: for them to keep making great games. I hadn't even thought about the fact that the company was celebrating two decades of existence when I said that. But now it means more than ever, and I mean it more than ever.
Blizzard's legacy will continue to live on, even if the company were to fold tomorrow. But somehow, I don't see that happening. The first twenty years were just the beginning -- we're in for a really long ride. And it's going to be a great one.
If you'd like to read more about Blizzard's twentieth anniversary, G4 has a spectacular feature called "Blizzard: A 20 Year Legacy of Quality (And Awesomeness)."