There's no better place to get a sense of the mark Blizzard has made on the world than at BlizzCon, the annual convention it holds each year in Anaheim, California. A Mecca for WoW, SC2 and Diablo-aholics alike, Blizzcon is the only place in the (real) world where your epic loot and dominating win/loss ratio will make others cower before you in fear. It's also the only place where you'll find the world's top StarCraft pros and WoW arena teams battling it out on stage with live professional commentary, developers talking about their plans for the future, and a man dancing in a giant bear suit—all under the same roof. It's no wonder that the tickets sell out seconds after going on sale.
12. Defense of the Ancients
What began as a simple mod for Warcraft III bloomed into a phenomenon in its own right, and has now grown into a full-blown genre. Using only the world editor, players crafted a map focused on champion arena battles that's become a mainstay at professional gaming tournaments around the world; and professional players are winning big bucks with their expertise at the free mod. There've already been several commercial spinoffs, such as Demigod, League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth, and high-profile companies like Valve and Blizzard itself are working on modern iterations of DotA's gameplay.
Consoles have created online networks such as Xbox Live, and Valve created Steam, but no single developer has created a such a successful network solely for its own games. Battle.net has been around for years, but only recently has Blizzard begun to transform Bnet into something it sees as the future: a network of constant connectivity. Why must I lose contact with my friends just because I want to play SC2 instead of WoW or Diablo III? Who says you can't talk to your friends in cross-game chatrooms? Using a single network gives the players a new sense of community, where they'll never game alone again.
14. Moose defense
On a forest stroll, Norwegian 12-year-old Hans Jørgen Olsen and his sister crossed paths with a cantankerous moose. Fearing for his sister's life, the little hero taunted the wild beast to distract it from his more lightly-armored sister, just as he had learned, he explained later, in WoW. As the moose fixed its fuzzy antlers upon him, Hans employed another WoW tactic: he feigned death. The moose quickly lost interest in the limp boy and went on its way, leaving Hans without a scratch, and with a renewed confidence in his daily training—uh, playing.
Every cultural phenomenon inserts new words into our language, or expands the meaning of existing terms, and the sheer popularity of Blizzard's games virtually guaranteed that we'd be talking its language—shout “for the Horde!” in any crowded restaurant, for example, and somebody's sure to snap to attention. But we're also seeing certain terms seep out into general popular culture as well, such as StarCraft's gracious “gg” to acknowledge a well-played round, “gank” for unsportsmanlike slaying, and “ding!” to celebrate skill advancement (upon the discovery, say, of In-N-Out Burger's off-the-record menu items).
Love is a beautiful thing, and Blizzard has proven astute in both the arts of giving and taking. While still a rarity, in-game weddings do occur (mostly on roleplaying servers), and the game's even been the initial meeting place for a surprising number of real-world newlyweds! Of course, the darker side of things is that WoW's been blamed for many a ruined relationship as well. Blizzard can only
be held responsible for making great games, however—how we choose to play them is
up to us.
Thanks to its unparalleled successes with StarCraft, Warcraft and Diablo, Blizzard has donated millions to various charities over the years. It's auctioned off artwork to raise funds for Child's Play, and recently donated over a million dollars to the Make-a-Wish foundation simply by selling vanity pets—a gesture that has helped lift the spirits of young people living with terminal illnesses.
18. South Korea
In a nation where 95 percent of citizens have broadband internet access, it's perhaps not surprising that e-Sports have permeated the culture to the point where you'll find Zerglings on Doritos bags and public service announcements that feature the Overmind warning commuters not to leave trash on the subway. E-Sports in South Korea have spawned an entire generation of professional players, as well as millions of hardcore spectators who watch them play live in stadiums and over cable television broadcasts of the tournaments. And what games are you most likely to find the pros honing their skills at for 60 hours each week? StarCraft and StarCraft II, of course.
20. Feature-quality cutscenes
In the same way that Pixar and Dreamworks have redefined animated filmmaking in the past decade, Blizzard has become the world's leader in animated cutscene quality, thanks to one of the industry's only in-house animation studios. Would the characters of StarCraft or Warcraft have had the same memorable impact if we hadn't seen them brought to life in theater-quality animations between missions and quests? The passion of fans is evidence enough of Blizzard's legendary prowess—many have even purchased the Blizzard Entertainment DVD Collection featuring the complete cutscene libraries of Diablo II, Warcraft III and StarCraft.