Mismanagement and cut costs doomed Warcraft 3: Reforged, a new report finds

warcraft 3 reforged
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Warcraft 3 Reforged's underwhelming release was the result of budget cuts, mismanagement, and internal disputes, a recently-released report from Bloomberg has found.

Released last February, Reforged arrived in a shocking state. Not only was the remake missing many of the planned grand, sweeping updates to the game's art and voiceover, but it retroactively ruined the original 2002 Warcraft 3—wholesale replacing its online service with one lacking basic features like competitive ladders.

In the new report, sources write that Warcraft 3 suffered from constant instances of miscommunication and financial pressures. Planned improvements were scrapped as the game was rescoped. Arguments flared over the game's art style and scope. The head of Blizzard's Classic Games team, Rob Bridenbecker, was accused of having an "aggressive management style", as well as frequently taking trips out of the country during production.

“We have developers who have dealt with exhaustion, anxiety, depression and more for a year now," developers wrote in an internal post-mortem obtained by Bloomberg. "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." 

Reforged also faced pressures from corporate owners Activision, which didn't prioritise a throwback RTS with little hope of becoming a blockbuster success. Mass layoffs across the company in 2019 didn't help, and with pre-orders opening long before the game was complete, the team was constantly having to "resist the urge to ship an unfinished product because of financial pressure."

"We took pre-orders when we knew the game wasn't ready yet," a post-mortem writer explained.

The report goes further into how the Classic Games team was largely maligned by Blizzard, and how management at Blizzard was "out of touch" with the project until extremely late in development. But the report ultimately blames Activision's increasing influence over Blizzard post-merger, pushing the developer to focus only on its stable of billion-dollar games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch.

This report comes hot on the heels of a lawsuit filed against Activision Blizzard by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing accusing the publisher of a "frat boy workplace culture" that saw women paid demonstrably less than their male colleagues and subjected them to "constant sexual harassment".

Natalie Clayton
Features Producer

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.