The rocky launch of Warcraft III: Reforged was the result of mismanagement and financial upheaval at Blizzard Entertainment.
According to a report from Bloomberg, which spoke with people familiar with the project and managed to obtain an internal postmortem, Blizzard seemingly chose to prematurely release the long-awaited remake knowing it was going to underdeliver.
Despite being branded a "monumentally important" project by Blizzard president J. Allen Brack when it was announced in 2018, Reforged was never truly backed by the studio's parent company Activision Blizzard, which reportedly pushed the developer to cut costs and refocus on other, bigger titles.
That left Blizzard in a precarious situation, with the studio having already promised hefty updates including over four hours of updated in-game cutscenes and re-recorded voice-overs. Ultimately, the company failed to implement those features and offered a number of excuses including not wanting cutscenes to "steer too far from the original game."
It also struggled to bring over features from the original Warcraft III, such as the 'ladder' competitive ranking system, turning the remake into a hollow impersonation of the original release.
Apologies were issued and "no-questions-asked" refunds were dished out, and yet it seems like Blizzard knew exactly what it walking into. In an internal postmortem, a number of Reforged developers said the company "took pre-orders when we knew the game wasn't ready yet," and said the team struggled to "resist the urge to ship an unfinished product because of financial pressure."
Another Blizzard spokesperson told Bloomberg that "in hindsight, we should have taken more time to get [Reforged] right, even if it meant returning pre-orders." As many developers began to realize the scale of the problem facing Reforged, infighting began and morale nosedived.
Those in the know said an aggressive management style, perpetuated by the head of Blizzard's Classic Games team, Rob Bridenbecker (who declined to comment on the report), coupled with unrealistic deadlines and scoping issues sparked arguments and left a number of developers with physical and mental health problems.
"We have developers who have dealt with exhaustion, anxiety, depression and more for a year now. Many have lost trust in the team and this company. Many players have also lost trust, and the launch certainly didn't help an already rough year for Blizzard's image," reads the postmortem. "We were missing and/or had the wrong people in certain lead roles. The team structure didn't set up the project for success."
The lawsuit contains a number of shocking allegations obtained by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), all of which suggest Activision Blizzard promotes a "frat boy" culture that results in systemic harassment and misconduct. Responding to those allegations, Activision Blizzard said it values diversity and inclusivity, and described the DFEH's report as "distorted" and "false."