Blizzard's crystal ball: mobile is the future, not (yet) VR

With all the hype and talk revolving around virtual reality these days, some even coming from the smartphone market, you'd think that VR is the future of gaming. Well, that might be true to some extent, but not in the near future, and definitely not yet for one huge game publisher. Blizzard, who just celebrated its 25th year in the biz, has given a glimpse of its near future, and it is one where the world's fifth largest gaming company focuses more on mobile and not on VR. At least not yet.

That's not to say that Blizzard isn't interested in VR at all. If you're a true-blooded gamer, it's hard not to be interested, even just remotely. And if you're Blizzard, it's virtually impossible not to be either. Imagine the feeling of walking, or even flying, through Azeroth as if you were really there. That kind of experience would be every RPG gamer's dream come true and Blizzard is naturally watching at that progress.

But "interesting" doesn't exactly translate to revenues and it would be some time before VR becomes as lucrative as any of Blizzard's franchises, including the ones it just recently acquired from mobile game maker King of Candy Crush Saga fame. While biding their time on the VR front, Blizzard is going to hunker down on the already current gaming hype: smartphones. Already its Hearthstone card gaming is raking in the dough, and that's on iOS alone. The game is available on PCs and Android as well, helping spread the brand even further. And with its acquisition of King Entertainment, Blizzard is even more well equipped to take the mobile gaming market by storm.

Of course, that doesn't mean that it will transform itself into a mobile game company exclusively. That would be suicide. No, it has too many titles, too many franchises to cut the ties with the PC past. Instead, the challenge for Blizzard is how to actually keep up with those myriad of games without letting them languish in between new releases. StarCraft, Warcraft, and Diablo all experienced years of dormancy before new content and new installments were added. Working on these titles simultaneously with others like WoW, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch, without doubling or tripling the development teams' sizes is going to be a tough juggling act.

That is why Blizzard is looking into ways to create more content for less developer work, so to speak. One would be to use procedurally generated content, a technique that can whip up maps, monsters, and challenges dynamically using only set rules instead of having them handcrafted by developers. The other is to get the gaming community to help in making that content. World of Warcraft's model allowed for user created content, which has been a big hit. While the idea is not that new on PC games or even consoles, it is definitely rare on mobile devices, giving Blizzard the opportunity to become a trailblazer.

Of course, both ideas have pros and cons and the key will be to balance everything with game stability and fairness. Suffice it to say, Blizzard definitely has an exciting adventure ahead if it goes either, or both, paths. And that's without virtual reality even.